BY DEAN HOCKNEY
TIPTON, Ind.—This win was a long time coming. For the first time since the 1982-1983 season, the Tipton Blue Devils toppled the mighty Kokomo Wildkats in Blue Devil country in what might be Central Indiana’s upset of the season – although many will contend Tipton is simply the better team and it is not an upset at all. Final score: Class 2A No. 3 Tipton 57, Class 4A No. 8 Kokomo 56 in overtime.
“It was a battle and we are really disappointed,” said Kokomo head coach Brian McCauley, who suffered his first back-to-back losses since December 2011. “But Tipton is a really good team and they made the plays to beat us. Both of these teams are very, very good.”
Both teams are so good that it took an extra four minutes of game action to determine a winner – and it was a Blake Hoover 3-pointer with :04.1 seconds left to give the Blue Devils its 19th victory in 108 meetings between the two schools.
McCauley pointed to free throw shooting by his squad that ultimately led to the Kats dropping to 12-2 on the season. The stat sheet shows Kokomo had a better shooting percentage in the field (26 of 44 for 59.1-percent) than it did from the free throw line (3 of 7 for 42.9-percent). On the other side of the court, Tipton shot a sizzling 10 of 12 from the charity stripe and out-rebounded the Kats 25-21 – including 14 Blue Devil offense boards.
But in the end, it was simply too much Mike Crawford – Tipton’s all-time career scorer, University of St. Louis recruit and Indiana Mr. Basketball candidate. He scored at least six points in each of the four regulation quarters and finished with game highs of 35 points and nine rebounds. For his efforts, Crawford was named the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association/Subway Player of the Week in District II.
“Crawford is an Indiana All-Star, there is no doubt about it. When your best player is diving on the floor, you know you have a good team. He is a handful – he is so big and strong,” said McCauley. “Tipton did a lot of good things and made a few more plays than we did. I want to congratulate Tipton on a fantastic game for them. They played well and made some plays – they showed a lot of toughness.”
McCauley also noted that the Blue Devils – who have advanced to the Class 2A Final Four the last two seasons – showed slightly more of the toughness that he talked about. And that is something that he will work on this week in practice.
“We showed a lot of toughness, but they maybe showed a little more,” he said. “There were a couple of loose balls that they came up with that are indicative of that.”
Crawford’s all-star worthy performance left few points for the rest of the Blue Devils. Hoover scored nine points on 3 for 3 shooting from beyond the arc and Nate Friend netted six points. For the Kats, Hakim Burnett scored a career-high tying 16 points, LaBradford Sebree scored 15 and Erik Bowen added 13 and a team-high seven rebounds. Tayler Persons, Kokomo’s leading scorer, was limited to just six shots and four points although he did dish out a game-high six assists.
Kokomo’s tough four-game road trip comes to an end Friday night when they play Class 4A No. 18 Anderson (12-2). Harrison (7-6) visits Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday night. Tipton (14-1) hosts Hamilton Heights (8-4) Friday night and Eastern (3-10) on Saturday.