By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — During one key stretch of the game, Tippecanoe simply couldn’t miss.
Nor did the Red Devils miss any other time it mattered most.
After Miami East took an early 11-2lead, the Tippecanoe girls basketball team went 8 for 9 during the final 2:46 of the first quarter and the beginning of the second, hitting three of its six 3-pointers during an 18-point run that turned the tables on the Vikings. And though Miami East fought back in the second half, the Devils never gave up control in a 54-40 victory Saturday at Miami East.
Tippecanoe (9-3) began the game 1 for 6 from the field, falling behind by nine as East’s freshman point guard Morgan Haney dropped in five points and had two assists. But Tippecanoe coach Andy Holderman called a timeout with 2:46 left in the quarter — and everything changed.
Mikenna Varvel hit a 3 right out of the timeout to end the Vikings’ nine-point run, then a steal by Allison Mader turned into a fast break layup by Taylor Prall. Varvel then set up Mader for another 3 to cut the lead to one and force a Viking timeout with 1:03 left in the first — but a layup by Aubrey Cox gave the Devils a 12-11 lead after the first eight minutes.
“That was definitely a run we needed after starting out the game down 11-2,” Holderman said. “Give all the credit to our girls for not panicking at that point. When you finally make a shot or two, it gets contagious.”
A different kind of contagious than the Devils dealt with to close out the 2015 calendar year.
“Aubrey’s coming off an illness and is still not quite 100 percent. The flu went through the whole team the last couple weeks, so physically we’ve been battling. But when gut-check time came today, we stepped up to the plate.”
Mader and Varvel kicked off the second quarter with 3s and Kelsey Wertz scored inside to give Tippecanoe a 20-11 lead before Haney set up a Bailey Miller jumper to finally end the run. Mader hit another 3, though, then later in the quarter a 3 by Sammie Rowland gave the Devils their biggest lead of the game at 36-19 — and they took a 36-21 lead into the halftime break.
The Devils were 14 for 26 from the field at halftime — but aside from the 18-point run, they were 6 for 15. Six of those field goals came from beyond the arc, though, with Mader hitting three 3s and Varvel two. The Vikings (7-5), meanwhile, shot 50 percent but only attempted 18 shots, turning the ball over 10 times in the first half.
“We decided to start out playing a zone. We scouted them in their loss to West Liberty-Salem, and they struggled shooting from the outside,” Miami East coach Bruce Vanover said. “We thought that was our best opportunity. Give the credit — we wanted to make them shoot from outside, and they made us pay for it.”
Miami East’s defense played tougher in the second half, only allowing five Tippecanoe field goals as the Devils went 5 for 24 after the break, but the Devils managed to maintain control thanks to Cox’s work on the offensive glass. Eight of her 10 rebounds came in the second half — and five of those were on the offensive end.
The Devils held an 11-point lead after three quarters, but the Vikings continued to battle, cutting the lead to as little as seven at 44-37 after Haley Howard capped off an eight-point run with a layup. A layup by Haney made it a nine-point game at 48-39 and the Vikings looked to get a stop on the defensive end after a block by Howard — but Cox came up with the ball and scored to make it a double-digit lead again, and Cassidy Wasson stole the ball and hit a pair of free throws, then Mader converted another turnover by driving the baseline for a layup to put the game away.
“That’s what we’re asking for now. Not individually, but as a group we need people to step up and make plays,” Holderman said. “We didn’t shoot well overall, but all throughout the game when we needed a big bucket, we got it. Overall, we were satisfied with the performance.”
“The girls came out and kept fighting,” Vanover said. “I was very happy with the way the girls scrapped, clawed and kept battling. We just had a couple untimely turnovers late that hurt us.”
Mader led all scorers with 15 points and five assists for the Devils. Rowland added 11 points, Cox had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and Prall and Varvel each finished with six points.
Haney led the Vikings with 14 points, four assists and six steals and Howard had six points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Megan Thompson added six points, Amber Kinnison scored five and Kyndall Hellyer scored four.
Tippecanoe hosts Springfield Shawnee Wednesday before a critical showdown on the road against Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division rival Kenton Ridge Saturday. The Vikings, meanwhile, host Ansonia Thursday before an equally critical road matchup at Cross County Conference leader Tri-Village Saturday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.