SPRINGFIELD — You could see the smiles through the masks of Tippecanoe boys basketball seniors Ben Knostman and Zach Frederick Friday night as they were interviewed after a 51-42 D-II district semifinal win over Carroll at Springfield High School.
“Long overdue,” Knostman said. “I think the last time was 2008 (that Tippecanoe was in the district finals).”
The Red Devils will now play Indian Hill, a 48-46 winner over Ross, at Trotwood-Madison High School on Saturday at noon.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Frederick said. “This was a goal. But, it is not the goal. We still have more to accomplish.”
It has been a goal since the senior class put on the Red Devil uniforms as freshman.
“Our freshman year was pretty good,” Knostman said. “Our sophomore year was a rough one. Last year was better and now we are in the district finals. We have made steady progress each year.”
Tipp coach Adam Toohey couldn’t have been prouder of what his team accomplished.
“With Covid and everything we have been through, this is amazing,” Toohey said. “Tim Cogan (the Carroll coach) and his staff are the best staff around and it is hard to prepare for what they run.”
Combined with Tipp missing shots it normally makes and going 1-for-5 from the line in the first quarter, the Red Devils were in an 18-8 hole early in the second quarter.
“We were definitely feeling jitters,” Frederick said. “You have to remember, this is the biggest game we have played in for a long time. We came out pumped up — too pumped up I guess.”
Carroll scored on five of its first six possessions.
“They were hitting mid-range jumpers,” Knostman said. “That is what we wanted them to shoot, but we need to put a little more pressure on them.”
There was no panic in Toohey.
“Carroll came out really hot,” he said. “We didn’t want to change our defense. I felt like it was a situation where we just needed to ride it out.”
Griffin Caldwell helped get Tipp back in the game in the second quarter.
He had eight points, including two 3-pointers.
Carroll’s shots started to miss the mark and when Gavin Garlitz scored off a Knostman assist, Tipp had its first lead a 25-24 with 1:13 to go in the half and that’s the way the teams went to the locker room.
“Griffin (Caldwell) and Gavin (Garlitz) really made some huge plays tonight,” Toohey said. “They both play great defense, but we needed what they gave us on the offensive end.”
Tipp never trailed in the second half and took a 37-33 lead to the fourth quarter.
“I think it allowed us to play our tempo and they had to play a little faster than they wanted,” Toohey said.
Tipp would scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter to go up 47-33, before a Johnny Deep basket for Carroll with 2:40 to go in the game.
“I didn’t even realize that (how long Carroll had gone without scoring),” Toohey said.
It started with a free throw by Cole Coppock and then Frederick muscled a ball of the backboard and in.
An amazing hook shot by Knostman made it 42-33.
“That was an impressive left-hand hook by Ben (Knostman),” Toohey said.
Garlitz buried a 3-pointer for a dagger to make it 45-33 and Knostman added two free throws.
“We talk about shots in big moments,” Toohey said. “That 3-pointer was a big one.”
Tipp had five players score at least seven points.
“We always talk about making that extra pass,” Knostman said.
Garlitz led the Tipp with 14 points.
Knostman filled out the stat sheet 11 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals, while Frederick added 10 points and seven rebounds..
Caldwell netted eight points and Nick Robbins scored seven.
Isaac Arrowood scored nine points for Carroll and Sam Severt had nine points and seven rebounds.
Steven Chapman had eight points in the opening quarter and added three assists.
Deep added six points, while Sean McKitrick added three assists and three steals.
Tipp was 19 of 36 from the floor for 53 percent, including seven of 16 from 3-point range for 44 percent. The Red Devils made just six of 17 free throws for 35 percent.
Carroll was 18 of 43 from the floor for 42 percent, including five of 18 from long range for 28 percent. The Pirates made one of two free throws for 50 percent.
Now, the Red Devils take another step in their 20-1 season, while Carroll finishes at 11-11.
“It is another week together,” Toohey said. “That is a big thing that we talked about. We are not ready for this to end.”
It is way too much fun to stop smiling now.