Tipp used a torrid start and some sharp three-point shooting from Preston Zumwalt and CJ Bailey to bury Troy for a second time…Tipp improves to 10-2…Troy has now dropped six of their last seven.
Tipp City, OH – Prior to Tuesday night’s Miami Valley League game between Tipp and Troy, Trojans coach Mark Hess made a prophetic statement.
“We just can’t score,” he lamented, citing his team’s 4-9 record and having lost four in a row – and six of their last seven.
An hour later, and five minutes into the first quarter of what would ultimately become a 66-47 Tipp win, Troy fell behind 13-1 to start the game, and wouldn’t score its first field goal until the 2:52 mark of the quarter. Unfortunately for Hess, his words would make him sound like Old Testament Isaiah.
“Once we settled down we were alright,” he said, post-game, minutes before boarding the bus for the short trip home on 25-A. “If you take away the start, what…it’s a six, seven-point game?”
Perhaps. Take away the 13-1 start, and assume that Troy would come back to play Tipp virtually even over the final three quarters, and you could make the case for a 53-47 game. But the game isn’t played that way, and if you want to make it hard to win a basketball game, slow starts – bad starts – will do it to you every time.
But it was hardly an accident, or happenstance. Back on December 8, in their first meeting of the year, Tipp used whatever mojo, or voodoo, they’ve had over the Trojans in the recent series between the two schools to win 47-34. And it isn’t voodoo. It’s defense.
It’s how Tipp has shot out to a 10-2 record, overall, a 10-1 conference record, holding opponents to an average of 39.7 points per game.
“We play hard on defense. We’re passionate about it. The kids compete,” said Red Devils coach Brock Moon. “We’re a physical team, we lock in, and we’re able to do it without fouling. We’re actually last in the league in blocked shots, and we pride ourselves on that. We just wall up and make kids make tough shots.”
Every shot was a tough shot for Troy from the outset, as misses, deflections, and turnovers in those first five minutes became points for Preston Zumwalt (8 pts) and CJ Bailey (5 pts), who scored 13 of Tipp’s 19 points in the quarter.
And, they also took advantage of Troy’s inability to close out on three-point shooters, a recurring habit throughout the game. Bailey would can four of ’em from the behind the arc; Zumwalt would connect on two…and Tipp would eventually hit 9 of 22 for the game (40.9%), on their way to shooting 52.8%, overall.
“Since the Butler game (a 39-30 Tipp win a week ago) I thought we’ve played hard and with a lot of enthusiasm,” added Moon, in his second year as coach. “I thought we came out with that tonight, and it always helps to hit shots early. We got a lot of the 50-50 balls, and that’s what we really want.”
To Mark Hess’s point, the way they started was Troy’s doom. Subtract the first quarter and through the final three Tipp outscored Troy by a margin of 47-41. Bailey would lead all scorers with 20 points. Zumwalt finished with 14. Maddox Sivon quietly ignited in the second half to finish with 13, and Jackson Smith bulled his away around the rim for 11. To Moon’s point, it’s always helps when you have four players score in double figures.
Troy could have benefited by having someone else besides Kellen Miller make some shots. Miller, the 6’7″ wing, would have his usual ‘Houdini’ shooting night, score 18 points on a variety of jump shots, leaners, and turnarounds…but there just wasn’t enough from the other four on the floor. Freshman Brady O’Leary came alive in the second half with 7 fourth quarter points to finish with 9, Evan Kaiser scored 7, and Hudson Furlong had 6. But beyond those three…mere ripples in the pond.
“I told the kids at halftime we just got the standing eight count,” smiled Hess. “We got hit hard from the start, and if you give them that lead it’s tough. As a coach it is what it is. But after the rough start we responded. When we settled down we did what we wanted to do. We got better shots, we made those shots….it’s just that when that happens we press, take bad shots, they get in transition and it gets out of hand.”
Which has been the story of Troy’s season thus far, because Hess believes – really believes – that the destination will eventually justify the journey to get there. This is a young, and talented team.
“We lost 12 seniors last year,” he reminds. “They had a maturity and experience that this group doesn’t have. But these kids work hard, they’re unselfish, and it takes time.”
In the meantime, Tipp has won six in a row after a pair of close December losses to Stebbins and Northmont, and while they’re not formidable in size, the way they play the game is such that they’ll become someone’s nightmare, or spoiler, come the Division II sectional tournament. They do shoot a lot of threes, but Moon believes they can score without those long-range mortars.
“We can shoot the three, and we shot early threes tonight, but we also want to make teams work a little bit,” says Moon. “We don’t want to take the first decent shot, let’s take a great shot and still try to get the ball inside. We finally got to that point tonight.”
And they’ve gotten to the point at the halfway point where teams have to notice them. They scoring 20 points a game more than they’re giving up, they have a three-game lead of second place Butler in the Miami Division of the MVL, and they’re getting more basketball-minded – less football-minded – every day.
What’s not to like?