Unsung Tippecanoe Red Devil Cade Gingrich had his classmates calling him “MVP” after Friday’s game with Piqua. The 6-2 junior nailed four threes and scored 20 points in leading the Red Devils to their latest victory.
Piqua – It’s easy to forget that the Tippecanoe Red Devils started the season at 0-4.
That seems like a long time ago, but it was just about 45 days ago that the Red Devils finally won their first game, beating Troy five days before Christmas.
They entered Friday night’s Greater Western Ohio Conference American North (Is there a longer league name in Ohio?) contest at 9-9 overall, and winners of 5 of their last 6 after Tuesday’s stunning upset of state-ranked Sidney.
Piqua, on the other hand, is suffering through a lost season, winners of just 4 of their first 16. While Tipp was shocking the Yellowjackets Tuesday night, Piqua shot 23% from the floor in a humbling 55-35 loss at Vandalia-Butler.
Naturally then, it was the Indians who held the Red Devils scoreless for more than five minutes of the second quarter and took a 22-16 lead to the locker room. And it was the Indians who led by as many as nine in the third quarter, before settling for a 32-27 lead after three.
And of course, it was the Red Devils who out-scored Piqua 23-13 in the fourth quarter to claim a 50-45 win before a larger-than-average crowd at Garbry Gymnasium.
“They do some good things out of their match-up zone, and it took us a little time to adjust,” said Tippecanoe’s second year head coach Joel Visser. “We didn’t rebound at all in the first half, and were much better at that in the second half. When we rebound and don’t turn the ball over, we are going to be OK. We knocked down some shots and everybody hit big free throws for us.”
“It was a great high school basketball game,” said Piqua coach Heath Butler. “Both teams played hard and had the lead at times, but they just made more plays down the stretch than we did.”
Junior starter Cade Gingrich, who came into the game averaging 3.8 points per game, hit his first three shots as the Red Devils jumped out to a 9-2 advantage. Gingrich went on to make three more threes and score thirteen of his game high 20 points in the second half.
“That was fun,” Gingrich said, surrounded by his teammates. “They beat us the first time and we knew we had to come out strong. That gives us three in a row as a team. Our plan is not to lose again.”
Leading by 6 at the half despite shooting 28% from the floor, Piqua got three-pointers from Caleb Patton and Gage Smith as the lead reached nine at 30-21. From that point, however, the Red Devils started to find the range and the lead was five heading into the fourth.
Caiden Smith, the 6-1 junior who blistered Sidney Tuesday night with 22 points, was stone-quiet for much of the night. He was scoreless at the half, but got loose at the top of the key and buried a three to give Tipp the lead for good at 40-39 with three minutes to play.
Piqua stayed in it behind 6 fourth quarter points from Hayden Schrubb and five more from Nate Monnin, but the Red Devils hit 7 of 8 from the line down the stretch to win for the third straight time and 6th time in 7 games, with the only loss to state-ranked Trotwood.
“We had better ball movement in the fourth quarter,” Gingrich continued. “They slowed us down with their zone, but we just had to keep believing, and move the ball. My shot was going in tonight, but my teammates set me up all night. It felt like I was shooting wide open shots.”
“We got a huge program win over Sidney, and you want to build on that,” explained Visser. “But they beat Trotwood, then came to our place and got surprised a little bit. We talked all week about not letting that happen. Piqua’s a good basketball team, despite their record, and they gave us fits tonight. We just played a lot better in the second half.”
“Both teams left everything out on the floor,” Butler explained. “Give Tipp credit. They are well-coached and they made more plays down the stretch. Aside of that, it’s an even game. I’m extremely proud of my kids, and the best thing is we get to come back tomorrow night and play again (home to Milton-Union).
“We just couldn’t keep that intensity and focus up for four quarters. Some of it was Tipp and some of it was us. I don’t know if we ran out of gas, but we lost our focus defensively and in a tight game, you can’t do that.”
The Indians lost for the 7th time in 9 games this calendar year, and missed a chance to sweep the season series after winning at Tipp 48-44 in December.
Gingrich got plenty of help from his friends, as Zac Bonifas scored 9, Quenten Williams added 8, and freshman Ben Sauls added 8 off the bench.
“Gingrich was huge for us tonight,” praised his coach. “He has started the past few games and has been playing very well. Tuesday night, it was Smith and the way Bonifas defended Gordon. Tonight it was Gingrich. Who cares? We set out every night for Tippecanoe to get a W. No cares about the stat sheet.’
Ben Schmiesing scored 14 to lead Piqua, but the 6-2 junior scored just 2 in the second half and fouled out with 1:05 to play. Hayden Schrubb added ten, more than triple his season average.
The Red Devils were 17 of 38 from the floor for 45% (Including 55% in the second half), 7 of 15 from the arc for 47% and 9 of 12 at the line for 75%.
For the second straight game, Piqua struggled to put the ball in the basket, making just 13 of 38 for 34%. The Tribe was 4 of 18 for 22% from the arc, and an exceptional 15 of 18 from the line for 83%.
Piqua out-rebounded the Red Devils 26-21 after having a 17-4 advantage at the half, and committed 12 turnovers to the Red Devils nine.
The game marked the start of the stretch drive for the Indians, who will play five of their last 6 games at Garbry Gym.
“The GWOC schedule takes a lot out of you playing Tuesday and Saturday,” Butler explained. “We don’t get a lot of time to practice and our kids don’t get a lot of time to rest. Anytime you don’t have to get on a bus at 2:45 in the afternoon and get home at 10 is a plus. If nothing else, we will get a little more rest heading down the stretch.”
“I think the sky is the limit for us right now,” Gingrich said with a grin. “We are playing our best basketball at the right time. Hopefully, we can keep that up, get to the tournament, and keep winning.”
Visser reflected back to that 0-4 start that saw losses to Versailles, Sidney, Piqua and Greenville by a total of 32 points.
“We just had to grow up,” he said as he headed toward the bus. “We lost 7 seniors, and that’s not an excuse. It was just our reality. This conference is bigger and more physical than we were at the start of the season. We have started to use our speed. Our juniors have stepped up, and our seniors are great leaders. We have just started to mesh. We are a good basketball team when we execute and play together. We have a chance to finish strong and get to the tournament feeling good about who we are.”