ELWOOD — A matchup that promised to be a good one Saturday night turned into an instant classic as the Tipton Blue Devils captured the Sectional 39 title with a 65-61 win over Elwood.
“I told our girls that their good was just a little bit better than our good,” Elwood coach Mickey Hosier said.
Tipton came in with a record of 15-4 and on a five-game winning streak, winners of seven of their last eight. Elwood has been even hotter. The Panthers were 17-5, riding an eight-game winning streak and winners of 13 of their last 14. The last Elwood loss came on Jan. 14 against Anderson in the Madison County tourney finals. In December, Tipton beat Elwood 81-69.
Elwood started out well, getting out to a 10-4 lead, the largest margin either team had all night. The game featured seven ties and 21 lead changes as momentum swung possession by possession. Tipton scored eight of the next 11 points to trail 13-12 after one quarter.
The game stayed tight through the second period as Elwood pushed the lead to five twice and led by three at halftime. Seniors Jessie Noone (seven points) and Katelyn Leisure (11 points) were carrying the Panthers in the first half, obviously not ready for their high school careers to end.
In the third quarter, Tipton senior Kacie Juday took over. Juday, who averaged 21 points this season, scored 15 of her game-high 38, hitting seven of her eight field-goal attempts and her only free throw.
“She’s a load,” Hosier said of Juday. “We’re chasing her and having a zone behind her to stop her, she’s just putting her head down and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
The teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 43. Tipton was able to grab the early lead and held it through most of the quarter.
Then Taylor Noone hit a huge three to give Elwood the lead with five minutes left. Leisure hit a shot with 3:46 remaining to put Elwood up 56-52, but Tipton came right back to take a 57-56 lead with three minutes to go. The Panthers’ last lead came with 1:44 left, a 59-58 edge after Noone cut to the basket, hit the shot and converted the free throw after being fouled. Lela Crawford gave Tipton the lead with 53 seconds to go, and the Blue Devils held on from there. Juday finished her big night with three free throws to ice the game. The final two came with six seconds left, and Tipton clinging to a 63-61 lead.
“I’m really proud of my kids,” Hosier said. “We had a lot of ups and downs, to be 4-4 at one point and to wind up 17-6, this is just a great group of kids.”
Jessie Noone led the Panthers with 21 points. Leisure finished with 19. Taylor Noone, Jordyn Wright and Tenasha Stephens all had six. Elwood will lose Noone, Leisure, Kelsey Hughes and Emily Gibson to graduation.
Tipton (16-4) moves on to face Shenandoah in Game 1 of the Lapel regional next Saturday. Tip is scheduled for 10 a.m.