Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has dual arts degrees from Ohio State University.

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Tippecanoe got up early, shared the basketball, shot well, and cruised in the second half to a 17-point win over visiting Piqua…and did it a man short!

Tipp City, OH – Fact of the matter…it just takes some teams, some schools, longer to make the transition from football mindset to basketball than others.  Such is how it looked Tuesday night at Pat Wampler Gym as the Tipp Red Devils (3-1) knocked off Piqua (0-3) by a 65-48 margin.

Another fact of the matter…the game wasn’t as close as the 17-point deficit might indicate.

Piqua, with a huge front court contingent of Riley Hill (6’3″ 295 lbs.), Iverson Ventura (6’3″, 255 lbs.) and Jerell Lewis (6’1″, 255 lbs.) played as if they were, indeed, in a football mindset, struggling with patience, shot selection, and fundamentally it looked like the third game of the season.  They rushed shots, got beat in defensive transition, and gave up too much on the boards despite their size advantage.

Tipp, on the other hand, got double-digit scoring from their second and third best scoring options, Ben Knostman and Zach Frederick, while senior teammate and top shooter Nolan Mader continues to sit out with a severe case of shin splints.

Knostman hit the Red Devils’ first shot of the game, a long corner three-pointer;  and Frederick began the second half in similar fashion, with another long three from the wing to help promote a whole different mindset for Tipp:  that being…share the basketball, find the open man, take good shots, and if you don’t hit ’em crash the boards and score in transition.  It worked to perfection, even without Nolan Mader.

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Frederick led all scorers with 20 points, buoyed considerably by his accuracy from behind the three-p0int line (4 of 6), and Knostman chipped in another 15 with 6 of 12 shooting from the floor.  Overall, the Red Devils shot 48% from the floor for the game, including 6 of 14 from behind the arc.  They led 18-11 at the end of the first quarter, 37-22 at the half, extended that lead to 58-29 at the end of three..before Piqua closed the margin to a final 65-48 against the Tipp bench in the last four minutes.

Defend and rebound…Tipp’s Zach Frederick (above, in white) ran the floor and tipped the ball away from Piqua’s Kameron Darner.

Ben Knostman is a legitimate threat to score any time he touches the basketball, and gave notice to future Red Devil opponents Tuesday that if, and when, Nolan Mader is healthy enough to play the Red Devils represent a three-handed threat to score from the perimeter, slash to the basket, and find an open teammate for a better, easier look at the rim.

“It would be exciting if we did have Nolan back and healthy,”  said Devils’ coach Adam Toohey.  “We haven’t had him at all this pre-season, really about four or five practices in he started to have the pain in his shins.  But with him it would be something you dream about – what Christmas is for – to have him at full strength in addition to the way other guys are stepping up.  Zach and Ben have both really improved in the off-season, Griffin Caldwell has gotten a lot better, and we have some young guys that are making a good impression.

“But I really liked our effort tonight.  We knew we had to defend better, because we gave up a lot of points in the win over Tecumseh, and too many points in our loss to Stebbins, and defense has been our focus and something we wanted to do better tonight.”

Piqua’s Jerell Lewis drives to the rim and scored 9 points in the loss to Tipp.

They did just that.  Piqua shot a poor percentage from the perimeter, and their best scoring option became the 6’3″ Hill, who when the ball touched his hands put his head down and headed for the goal line (rim). And the big man showed remarkable footwork and skill to score and draw blocking fouls from undersized defenders, scoring 10 points and matching teammate Dresean Roberts with 10 for team high honors.

But the night belonged to Tipp, offensively and defensively, highlighted by Zach Federick’s best night so far, 20 points, those four three-pointers, and an overall solid effort all over the court.

“We talk all the time about taking a great shot, not the first shot,”  said Frederick, just a junior.  “We just try to get the best shot we can, so it’s not always about who gets the shot, but where the shot comes from.  We want a great team shot from everybody.”

To that end, eight players scored for Tipp, headed by Frederick and Knostman…but complemented by Gavin Garlitz (9 pts.), Thomas Skaggs (6 pts), Griffin Caldwell (5 pts.), and Nick Robbins and Gabe Dean with 4 points each.

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Likewise, Piqua had seven different players score, but it lacked the sharing of the ball and efficiency that punctuated Tipp’s effort.

“They were a big, strong team, but we could definitely box out against them and run on them.  We just tried to move the ball, find the open shot, and have trust [in each other].  Overall, we all shoot the three point shot with confidence and try to defend and hustle.”

Tipp’s Griffin Caldwell was one of eight Red Devils to score, finishing with 5 points.

“We have to do that because we’re so small,”  added Frederick (who’s 6’4″).  “We just try to work harder than the next guy.  That’s how we win.”

Adam Toohey is an impressive personality to meet, and his teams borrows from that personality with the way it goes about its business, while waiting (they hope and pray) for Nolan Mader to heal and come back to the starting lineup.

“Let’s pray that he does,”  says Toohey.  “But until then we just have to continue to play in our roles.  Then we have to build other guys up to share in that.  Number one, we have to defend.  And two, we have to rebound.  If we can do that while playing the offense style we’re looking for that’s what we need to do.  And if we can insert Nolan in there it’s going to make it easier for everyone, including Nolan.”

And for Piqua, it’s a team that played hard enough, hustling and diving after loose balls – no one could question the effort on Tuesday.  They just need to take a page from Ben Knostman and Zach Frederick’s book until the football-to-basketball transition becomes more seamless.  Even without their best player they played smart.

Share the ball, defend, rebound…and win!

 

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