Tipton boys basketball coach Billy Jeffries thinks he knows how his Cardinals can beat Sacred Heart.
“I’m hoping they forget what time the game is,” he joked.
Assuming the Gremlins do realize they face Tipton at 8 p.m. today at the Fred E. Davis Multipurpose Center, they could take home their fifth Kaysinger Conference Tournament championship in the last six years and seventh overall. Tipton has never won the Kaysinger Tournament. The Cardinals beat Green Ridge in the third-place game last season and fell to Sacred Heart in the championship game in 2011 and 2012.
Sacred Heart is ranked No. 2 in the latest Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 2 poll and comes into the game 18-0 after surviving a late rally from Green Ridge in the tournament semifinal on Wednesday. The Gremlins now turn their attention to a Tipton squad they beat 76-50 on Jan. 24.
“We’ll get focused in on what we’ve got to do because they present different problems than Green Ridge,” said Sacred Heart coach Steve Goodwin. “We have to be true to what we are too and be strong with the basketball and finish the shots we get open.”
Tipton (15-4) played nearly a perfect game in its 75-38 semifinal win over Windsor on Wednesday. The Cardinals shot 31 of 44 from the field (70 percent), did not commit a turnover until midway through the second quarter and did not allow the Greyhounds to get an offensive rebound until early in the third. But after winning their own tournament and the New Franklin Tournament, the Cardinals know they will need another perfect game to win this tournament.
“We’re going to have to play awfully good,” Jeffries said. “I’ve always said that to play the top seed, you always want to play them in the semifinal because that’s when usually they’re going to get knocked off and it showed (Wednesday). They played really well in the first half and just kind of went through the motions in the second half. Green Ridge tried to make a run at them because they play so hard. Come Friday night, it’s going to be a whole different look from Sacred Heart. It’s going to be a tall task for us to stay with them.”
On Wednesday, Tipton played a slow-paced first quarter with just 12 offensive possessions. The Cardinals sped things up in the next two quarters though that was fueled by the Tipton defense generating turnovers and taking advantage of transition opportunities.
Though Sacred Heart tends to set a faster pace, Goodwin said the Gremlins won’t force an up-tempo game.
“I let the game unfold as it happens,” he said. “Whatever adjustments we have to make, we’ll make. They’ve got good athletes and they always have good athletes and they’re always well coached. They present lots of challenges. They always do.”
Tipton got 20 points from Dylan Cooper, 18 from Logan Hirst and 13 from Dylan Tate in Wednesday’s win over Windsor.
Sacred Heart got 22 points from Stefan Cox and 14 each from Keyaire Marshal and Garrett Strange against Green Ridge on Wednesday. Jimmy Villalobos added 13 points and Chase Lyles scored nine.
“You can’t pick and choose what you try to take away from them,” Jeffries said. “You try to get out and guard against the three, they’re going to drive right by you and create stuff off the dribble. They’ve got six kids that can do both, shoot and get to the basket. You’ve got to get to the 50/50 balls and we’ve got to block out and rebound a lot better than we did last time. We rebound and we can stay with them but if we give up 15-20 offensive rebounds, it won’t be a game.”
In the third-place game, Green Ridge will face Windsor. The Tigers turned a 21-point fourth quarter deficit into an eight-point deficit on Wednesday in the semifinal loss to Sacred Heart but time ran out before they could pull any closer.
Windsor trailed Tipton 21-13 after one quarter on Wednesday before Cardinal steals on four of the first five Greyhound possessions of the second quarter helped Tipton jump out on a 10-0 run.
“I expect a lot of threes,” said Windsor coach Brent Behler of the matchup against Green Ridge. “It was a fast-tempo game when we played them earlier in the year and they got us by two. I expect it to be an up-tempo game with a lot of pressing. We’ve got to deny the three. We’ve got to move better defensively.”
Green Ridge beat Windsor 75-73 when the teams met on Jan. 14.
In the consolation final at 5 p.m., defending Kaysinger Conference champion Cole Camp will face up-tempo Smithton.