By Josh Brown
SPRINGFIELD — No matter what Ben Logan tried, Tippecanoe always maintained control.
At this point, it’s a reflex for the Red Devils.
“We work on end-of-quarter and end-of-game situations all the time,” Tippecanoe coach Joel Visser said. “Man, at this point, we’ve been in so many of them this year.”
The top-seeded Tippecanoe Red Devils ran the final-possession drill to perfection in each of the four quarters Tuesday night against No. 6 Ben Logan, cashing the final bucket in the first three times and then calmly erasing the final two minutes from the clock in the fourth to put away a 59-41 victory over the Raiders in the Division II boys basketball sectional tournament Tuesday at Springfield High School.
With the win, the Devils (16-8) advance to Saturday’s sectional championship game to take on either No. 2 Urbana or No. 4 Indian Lake, while Ben Logan’s season ended at 6-17.
And while the final margin appears lop-sided, the Raiders put up a fight, trailing only by three points at 40-37 with two minutes to go in the third quarter.
“Ben Logan had a good gameplan and played hard,” Visser said. “They worked hard to take away our two-man game and our pick-and-roll, but I thought we made some adjustments at the half that were pretty effective.
“We keep telling the kids that it’s the tournament, and in the postseason, records are irrelevant. Every night can be anyone’s big night. The next team, whoever it is, is always our biggest roadblock.”
A steal-and-layup by Carter Mann — who had a monster game for the Devils — gave Tippecanoe a 40-34 lead with 2:18 left in the third, but Ben Logan’s Austin VanBuskirk answered with the Raiders’ sixth 3 of the game to keep Ben Logan within three. A pair of free throws by Mann extended the lead, then the Devils got a stop on defense and began spreading out the defense and working the clock down.
And just before the buzzer, Zach Wildermuth hit Nathan Shirley with a cross-court pass, and Shirley buried a wide-open 3 to put Tippecanoe up 45-37 heading into the final quarter.
“Getting that 3 at the end of the third, that was huge,” Visser said. “We go from a five-point lead to an eight-point lead to start the fourth — and that little bit is a big deal.”
And with the defense Tippecanoe plays, an eight-point lead may as well be a 20-point one.
A drive by Ben Logan’s Mitchell Fink early in the fourth cut the Devils’ lead to 47-39, but that was the last field goal Tippecanoe would surrender in the game. In fact, after Ben Logan shot 11 for 21 (52 percent) in the first half, the Devils held the Raiders to a paltry 3 for 20 (15 percent) in the second half — and 1 for 11 (9 percent) in the fourth quarter.
“It all comes down to defense,” Visser said. “In the first half, we weren’t getting after it the way we’re capable of on the defensive end. Like I said, Ben Logan had a good gameplan, and they shot the ball well early. They played hard, but we made some adjustments and the guys got after it in the second half.”
Mann did, especially, scored 10 of his game-high 16 points in the second half, adding nine rebounds and two blocked shots and preventing the Raiders from ever being able to find room to work in the post. Mann was also clutch at the end of quarters, scoring in the closing seconds of both the first and second to help Tippecanoe take a 34-29 lead at the half. And with the Devils struggling offensively to start the third quarter, Mann’s three-point play and Shirley’s clutch 3 provided just the spark the team needed to pull away for good.
Wildermuth — who hit the game-winning shot at the final buzzer in Saturday’s thrilling 56-53 first-round victory over Springfield Shawnee — put together a solid all-around game off the bench with 10 points, six rebounds, five steals and four assists. Aaron Hughes added nine points, Jakob Prall scored six points, Shirley and Zach Bonifas each added five, Joe Tesch had four points and five rebounds and Adam Grieshop scored four points.
Grant Ricketts led the Raiders with 14 points and four rebounds, Konner Caudill added nine points, hitting all three of his 3s in the second quarter, VanBuskirk had eight points, Nolan Robson had four points and Fink, Corbin Adams and Joel Dixon each had two points.
Tippecanoe shot 21 for 46 (46 percent from the field) but held a 29-23 edge on the glass, particularly dominating the offensive glass early with five first-quarter offensive rebounds to help build a 22-13 lead after one. The Devils also forced 17 turnovers in the game while committing only 12 and went 12 for 13 from the free throw line.
Of Tippecanoe’s 24 games this season, 13 have been decided by five points or fewer — with the Devils going 7-6 in those contests.
Now the Red Devils will prepare for Saturday’s sectional title game, awaiting either Urbana, which they defeated 39-26 on Feb. 2, or Indian Lake, which they defeated 53-35 on Jan. 19. At time of press, the Hillclimbers held a 56-32 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Editor’s note: For Tuesday’s late boys sectional tournament action, look in the Thursday issue of the Troy Daily News.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.