By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
PIQUA — Coming off of its third non-league loss of the year, a hard-fought 53-40 loss against a tough Versailles team on Monday, the Tippecanoe girls basketball team hoped to fit a few more pieces of the puzzle together Wednesday at Piqua.
“We don’t want to be playing as well as we can now, and there is room for improvement — but we have seen some gains along the way,” Tippecanoe coach Andy Holderman said.
And though the Indians were able to challenge the Red Devils in the third quarter, they never could cut Tippecanoe’s big early lead to single digits as the Devils put away a 70-48 Miami Valley League Miami Division victory Wednesday at Piqua High School.
In six meetings as members of the Greater Western Ohio Conference the previous three years, Tippecanoe (3-3, 3-0 MVL Miami) was 6-0 against Piqua (3-3, 0-3 MVL Miami) with an average margin of victory of 36.8 points. Wednesday night’s 22-point win was the closest the Indians have come as division rivals of the Devils.
And after Tippecanoe jumped out to a 24-9 lead after the first quarter, it seemed like it’d be more of the same. But Piqua kept pace in the second quarter, trailing 33-18 at halftime, and then the Indians matched their first-half point total in the third quarter by scoring 18 more — but still trailed 50-36 heading into the fourth.
“Obviously, Piqua’s gotten a lot better, and we’re still trying to find ourselves,” Holderman said. “I feel like at times we’re taking plays off, and that’s been a focus these last couple games. We have moments where we play pretty well, and then there’s moments that I can’t explain.”
“Tipp is just Tipp. We got down early and had to overcome some first-quarter jitters,” Piqua coach Greg Justice said. “We weren’t working together and passing the ball and looking for the best shot. We were just taking any shot, and we’ve got to learn to trust each other, that the ball’s going to find you in a better spot.”
After a 3 by Kenzi Anderson to open the fourth, Piqua was within 11 at 50-39 and had a chance with the ball to cut the lead to single digits — but Rachel Wildermuth got back in transition to block a fast-break layup attempt, and the Devils casually blew the lead back up from there to seal it.
“I’m proud of the girls, because they don’t quit,” Justice said. “At Butler, we were down 17 and pulled it back to within three. We’re fighting, and it seems like when we get down, that’s when we start playing together. We’ve got to get off to a better start and understand that that’s why we were able to come back.”
Wildermuth and Katie Hemmelgarn made the difference defensively for the Devils, combining for 10 blocked shots on the night. Hemmelgarn finished with a double-double with 16 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots, while Wildermuth added 10 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots.
“That’s a nice feature to have, some long bodies and length back there,” Holderman said. “But the bottom line is we have to continue to get better defensively. There’s a lot of opportunities for us to improve on. We’ve got some bigs back there with some length that can help on the dribble drive, but again, as a group and as a team, we’ve got to make sure we guard our own yard, keep that girl in front of us and not allow the dribble drive.”
Ashleigh Mader led the Devils offensively on the night with a game-high 18 points — 11 of those coming in the first half — and four assists. Kendall Clodfelter added 16 points and three assists, Hannah Wildermuth had nine points and Katie Salyer had three points and five assists.
“We’re trying to get more consistent on both ends of the floor, and we’re making strides there (on offense),” Holderman said.
For Piqua, Karley Johns led the way with 16 points — 10 in the second half — Tylah Yeomans had 14 points and Aubree Schrubb posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Anderson hit a pair of 3s and had eight points and Tayler Grunkemeyer dished out six assists.
“We can get better,” Justice said. “We’ve got some new players and are still finding out some things about each other. The goal is just to keep growing each game.”
Both teams are on the road Saturday, with Tippecanoe traveling to West Carrollton and Piqua traveling to Xenia.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
©2019 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.