By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TIPP CITY — After back-to-back heartbreaking losses late in games, Tippecanoe boys basketball coach Adam Toohey may have been happy to see his Red Devils pull out a close win to snap their two-game skid.
But he was even happier knowing the situation his team is in in the division standings.
Tippecanoe was 4 for 4 from the free throw line in the final 1:36 and, after Xenia had made it a one-possession game in the final 10 seconds, was able to play keep-away without being fouled to drain the rest of the clock and hold on for a hard-fought 47-44 victory Friday night in Miami Valley League crossover play, keeping pace atop the Miami Division standings with rival Troy — which the Devils face in a few short days.
The Devils — who lost by to on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to Butler and then lost in double overtime to Stebbins — improved to 8-6 overall with the win and 7-3 in the MVL Miami, remaining tied with the Trojans, who defeated West Carrollton on the road 81-71 Friday night. Tippecanoe will travel to Troy Tuesday night to play for sole possession of the division lead.
“It’s a great rivalry, and we know they’re going to be insanely up to play us,” Toohey said of Troy. “But we told our guys that, in this league, this one counts as much as that one. You have to bring it every single night, or else you lose on a buzzer beater, or you lose in double overtime.
“It’s a mental challenge. We’ve had some internal strife after losing those two close ones, trying to figure ourselves out. But we tell our guys that they can’t be too focused on the result — because we were playing good basketball. We were just missing some shots that were good shots. If (Butler’s) buzzer beater doesn’t go in? We’re looking at this whole thing differently. And we missed 12 layups against Stebbins. If we make six of those, we’re not looking at double overtime. So we try not to overreact, and that was the message coming into tonight.”
Xenia, which Tippecanoe beat 62-38 in the first meeting this season, fell to 3-11 and 2-9 in the MVL Valley Division — but the Buccaneers made sure nothing was easy for the Devils this time.
Despite holding a 12-10 lead after one and a 22-18 lead at the break, Tippecanoe only made one 2-point shot in the entire first half, instead relying on five 3-pointers as a team to pull ahead. And for the game, the Devils only had three 2s — but 10 total 3s.
“We’ve been saying you want to beat them from the inside out — but we also know who we are. And we can really shoot the ball,” Toohey said. “And Xenia really packed it in, too, and their size and the way the game was officiated wasn’t going to allow us to have anything inside, so we got inside, kicked it out and did a good job making shots.”
Still, Xenia was able to take the lead twice in the third quarter, the latest being 29-27 before a Nolan Mader 3 put Tippecanoe back on top for good, and Zach Frederick drilled a 3 in transition to help the Devils take a 33-30 lead going into the final quarter.
In the fourth, Xenia cut the lead to one at 35-34 with 5:06 to play before Nick Robbins hit an open Mader for yet another 3 to make it a two-possession game again. Ben Knostman then hit a 3 after a Buccaneer turnover to give the Devils their biggest lead of the night at 43-35 with 3:05 to play.
“We need to continue to get better and focus on some things, work on getting to our best,” Toohey said. “In some stretches in the fourth quarter tonight, I thought we did play really well, and some guys stepped up.”
From there, the game became a free throw battle — which didn’t necessarily play into Tippecanoe’s favor, as the Devils went 11 for 20 from the line on the night. But Frederick hit a pair with 1:36 to play that gave Tippecanoe a 45-37 lead, and Knostman hit two more with 22.1 seconds on the clock to give the Devils a 47-42 lead, and Tippecanoe held on from there.
“Yeah, it does (feel good). We’re learning to play in close games,” Toohey said. “We definitely did a lot of things to lose this one tonight: missing free throws, some turnovers late. But we’re just happy to come out on top in a close game late.”
Knostman led a trio of Devils in double figures with 14 points, eight rebounds and three assists, Frederick added 12 points and eight rebounds and Mader finished with 11 points. Thomas Skaggs added three points and four rebounds, Gavin Garlitz and Griffin Caldwell each had three points and Robbins had one point and three assists.
Gavin Gerhardt led Xenia with 13 points and four rebounds, Dylan Hoosier scored 12 points, Zach Gathier scored eight, Isaiah Hoyt added six, Shawn Thigpen and Matthew Caupp each had two and Kevin Johnson had one point and 12 rebounds. Overall, the rebounding battle was tied 32-32 and Tippecanoe turned the ball over 14 times while forcing 12.
Now Tippecanoe travels to Troy Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. tip. Since the two teams became division rivals three years ago, the Devils are 1-5 against the Trojans — including dropping the last five straight, and all three meetings in Troy.
“(Troy) is a tough place to play, so we’re trying to figure out how we can get there, get over the hump,” Toohey said. “I’m sure they’ll be loud and ready to roll when we get there.”
Contact Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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