TIPP CITY — The roster has changed at Tippecanoe High School. The results haven't.
Opponents were ready to deliver a little payback after the Red Devils — coming off consecutive 20-0 regular seasons — lost four starters to graduation. So far only Graham has delivered, snapping Tipp’s 47-game, regular-season winning streak in the season opener.
Kenton Ridge gave it a good run for awhile Friday, but Tipp took control in the fourth quarter for a 47-30 Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Division win. The victory was the sixth straight for the Red Devils (6-1 overall, 5-1 CBC). The win also kept Tipp a game behind Kenton Division leader Tecumseh (7-0, 4-0 CBC), while dropping Kenton Ridge (3-2, 2-2 CBC) into third.
“I think there was a lot of pressure early on,” Tipp coach Matt Pond said of keeping the streak going. “I think the Graham game took that off them. If you were here and saw them walk out, you could tell they were playing with the streak on their shoulders. We talked afterward, said it’s over. That’s not going to define them as the team that lost the streak.”
Instead, they’re starting their own. The Red Devils, winners of 75 of their last 80 games, show no signs of letting up. Senior forward and lone returning starter Kyle Corbin scored a game-high 23 points Friday. No other player scored more than seven, but different players took turns stepping up.
“We talk to kids about being ready when you’re time comes, because you never know about opportunities,” Pond said.
That was even more important Friday. Tipp starter David Moore left the game five minutes in after colliding hard with Bryan Thompson going for a loose ball. The contact opened a cut near Moore’s right eye that left him bloodied. He didn’t return.
“It was tough. The refs were letting us play,” said Tipp center Luke Gyetvai of the physical game.
Gyetvai and Marcus Mays hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Tipp a 25-18 lead early in the third quarter. Kenton Ridge kept the deficit manageable, pulling to 34-28 with 6:55 left in the game. But Corbin, Alex Davis, Jarod Weaver, Gyetvai and Mac Malarkey all scored in Tipp’s game-ending 13-2 run.
“We felt like we needed to start our own streak,” said Corbin. “I think tonight was a big game for some of our younger players.”
Kenton Ridge, winners of three straight entering Friday, was hoping for the same. The Cougars have just two seniors on the roster. They’re joined by six juniors and three sophomores. Still, the Cougars trailed 17-15 at the half and tied it on Jordan Armstrong’s basket to open the third quarter. But an 8-0 Tipp spurt quickly restored the lead.
“When the fourth quarter hit we knew it was our game to win,” said Corbin. “We had to play pretty good defense on them.”
They did. Kenton Ridge — whose only lead came briefly in the second quarter — managed just one field goal and two free throws in the fourth quarter. They shot 5-of-24 in the second half.
“Down two at halftime and six going into the fourth quarter, I thought we were in pretty good shape,” said Kenton Ridge coach Kris Spriggs. “We scored four points in the fourth quarter. You have to play awful good defense to be in a situation where you’re still in the game.”
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Kenton Ridge. They play Mad River Division leader Graham on Dec. 27 and Tecumseh on Dec. 29. A win over Tipp would have made that stretch a bit less daunting.
“A nine-point lead in a low scoring game like this is like having a 15-point lead,” Spriggs said. “We had opportunities … we didn't finish. You can design every little play, but the bottom line is you have to put the ball in the hoop. We didn’t do that on a consistent basis tonight.”
Tipp did, especially from the free-throw line. The Red Devils hit all 13 attempts, led by Corbin’s seven tosses.
“Just playing at Tipp City, any sport really, you know you have the bulls-eye on your back,” Corbin said. “We’re kind of one of the favorites to win the league and we know teams are going to give us their best game every night out.”