By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
MASON — When Kendall Clodfelter hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Tippecanoe a nine-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, a fifth consecutive trip to the regional tournament for the Red Devil girls basketball team seemed all but locked up.
“I was feeling pretty good,” Tippecanoe coach Andy Holderman said. “Then … I don’t even know what to say.”
Then things took a turn.
Franklin’s Layne Ferrell hit 15 fourth-quarter free throws en route to a 31-point effort as the Wildcats went 19 for 25 from the line in the fourth quarter alone, including all four free throws after a pair of technicals as frustration set in late for the Devils as Tippecanoe watched victory slip from its grasp in a 49-39 loss to Franklin in the Division II district final Friday at Mason Middle School.
It was the sixth straight trip to the district final for the Red Devils (19-6), with the previous four in a row being victories. But Franklin (21-4) was simply a step quicker to loose balls and rebounds during the final eight minutes — particularly Ferrell, who added 14 rebounds to her totals and went 17 for 21 from the free throw line on the night, doing the majority of her work in a 23-point fourth quarter.
For the game, Franklin was 23 for 35 from the line — 1 for 5 at halftime and 4 for 10 after three. Tippecanoe, meanwhile, was 6 for 10 for the game, going 5 for 6 in the first quarter and then not attempting another one until the fourth.
“Give her credit, she knocked them down,” Holderman said. “I felt like this was a well-played game in the first half, even through three quarters. And then I felt like we just … I’m not going to be bashing anybody, but looking at the free throw totals, there was a big discrepancy there, and a nine-point lead doesn’t take long to dissipate when you’re shooting 30 free throws in the second half.”
And the frustration showed on the court.
With the atmosphere growing more raucous on both sides as the Wildcats began trimming into the Devils’ lead throughout the fourth, Ferrell scored on a drive Franklin its first lead of the game at 37-36 with 2:21 remaining. Then a technical foul was called on a Tippecanoe player on the other end at the 2:17 mark, causing at least one fan to be ejected and the Tippecanoe student section to move away from the basket and to the back wall. Ferrell hit both free throws, grabbed an offensive rebound on the ensuing possession and hit two more free throws to make it a five-point game.
With the Wildcats up 42-36 after another free throw, another technical was called on Tippecanoe after a Franklin steal with 1:08 left. Ferrell hit both of those free throws and Jordan Rogers added another free throw to make it 45-36, and the closest the Devils got after that was after another Clodfelter 3 to make it 47-39 with 28.1 seconds left.
“I told the girls that they can only control what they can control. We just made it a life lesson,” Holderman said. “It’s all about character, and you don’t want to give anyone a reason to doubt you or think negative of you. Franklin’s a good team, and it is what it is. It’s unfortunate.”
The Devils had controlled the action throughout until the fourth, taking a 9-6 lead after forcing six first-quarter turnovers and then holding a 13-9 lead at halftime after a defensive battle. To that point, the Devil defense had held Ferrell to only four points and seven rebounds — much as it had Kenton Ridge’s Mikala Morris in the previous gave to get to the district final.
And when the pace of the game picked up in the third quarter, Tippecanoe still found ways to stay in front and even built a lead as big as 10 points after a Jillian Brown layup with 1:26 on the clock. Ferrell answered with a bucket inside and a pair of free throws to cut the lead to six, but Clodfelter drilled a 3 to make the score 31-22 after three and set up the fateful final quarter.
Clodfelter led the Devils with 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Ashleigh Mader added 11 points. Brooke Aselage had six points and eight rebounds, Brown had six points and five rebounds, Rachel Wildermuth had two points and six rebounds and Katie Salyer had two points as Tippecanoe outrebounded Franklin 37-32 and forced 13 turnovers while committing 11 — five in the fourth quarter.
After Ferrell’s 31 points and 14 rebounds, Rogers added 10 points for the Wildcats, Emily Newton had four, Brooke Stover scored three and Kaylee Harris had one.
Even with the defeat, though, Tippecanoe’s season was still a successful one given its youth. The Devils, who will leave the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division as the three-time champions during their three years in the league, say goodbye to senior Aselage, Brown, Mackenzie Smith and Makayla Stallard.
“I had about eight losses pegged on the schedule before the season began. we did a really good job all year,” Holderman said. “That’s why you play the bigger schools like the Springboros and the Fairmonts — that’s the importance of the non-league schedule because it gets you ready for stuff like this. The seniors did a great job of leading this young squad. But there were things that happened out here that were beyond our control, and that just makes it tough. But this was a learning experience for everyone.
“I don’t know what to say. It’s kind of a bum deal.”
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.