by Beau Wicker
Cass’ game plan just about worked to perfection against Class 2A No. 2-ranked Tipton on Tuesday night in boys basketball.
The Kings were able to hang around and hang around, and they made a run late at the Blue Devils.
But the Blue Devils thwarted the rally just in time. Tipton star Mike Crawford hit six straight free throws in the final 1:12 and finished with a game-high 31 points to lead the Blue Devils to a 67-60 win.
“We just wanted to keep the game close enough where we had a chance at the end and we did keep it close enough,” Cass coach Jon Kitchel said. “We just have to knock down a shot here or get a turnover there or not foul Crawford would be good, too. He’s a heck of a player.”
Blake Hoover came up with a steal and threw a behind-the-back pass to Crawford who drew a foul and knocked down both free throws to give the Blue Devils (19-2) a 61-52 lead with 2:50 left in the game.
That’s when the Kings (10-10) made their run. Ryan Aldridge scored in the post, Tipton was called for a quick travel and Austin Keisling scored on the inbounds play for the Kings. Blake Hadley came up with a steal and fed Keisling for another basket, and all of a sudden it was a 61-58 game with 2:10 to play.
Hadley came up with another steal but later missed on a contested shot from point-blank range. Crawford then drew a foul on a drive and knocked down both free throws to make it 63-58. Crawford later made two free throws in the one-and-bonus situation to make it 65-59 with 24.2 second left. His two free throws with 12.9 seconds left closed out the scoring.
Cass shot 2 of 7 from the foul line in the final minute. Three of the misses were in the final 7.2 seconds when Ryan Bixler was fouled on a 3-point attempt with the game probably out of reach anyways at 67-60.
Tipton jumped out to a 13-4 lead to start the game and led 23-11 after one quarter, and it looked like the Blue Devils might cruise to a big road win. But the Kings stayed within 37-28 at halftime and 52-43 after three quarters.
The Kings turned the ball over 12 times in the first half but limited that number to just three in the second half.
“I knew what kind of pressure their guards could do. I don’t think our players believed it until after about the fourth or fifth turnover they decided we better do a better job protecting the ball,” Kitchel said. “As good as they are offensively, their defense is tremendous. That’s the best defensive team we’ve seen. They’re not only quick but they’re strong and physical and they’ll ride you all the way down the court. They’re a heck of a team.”
Crawford had a team-high seven rebounds to go with his 31 points. Hoover finished with 16 points. Nate Friend added seven.
“We got off to a great start, something we’re notoriously poor at. That was a positive,” Tipton coach Brad Dickey said. “Then we sort of ran downhill a little bit. We’ll try to improve on that come Friday night at Western.
“We didn’t handle some situations toward the end very well, but Lewis Cass did a great job. I fully expect them to be back at the Tipton Regional. There’s no reason they shouldn’t go over and perform well in their sectional. It’s a good team.”
The Blue Devils bounced back from their second loss of the season to Frankfort on Friday night.
“We just needed to get a win and move on,” Dickey said.
Hadley led the Kings with 16 points. Keisling scored 15. Miller had 13 points and five boards, and Aldridge added nine points and a game-high eight boards on senior night for the Kings.
“I think we had a heck of a game,” Miller said. “I think we came out there in the second half and kind of scared them a little bit, put them back on their heels and got it down to 3. What we take out of that is we’re ready for sectional.”