RUSSELLVILLE — Tipton held off a late Stover rally to beat the Bulldogs 45-42 in the first round of the Class 2, District 8 boys basketball tournament Tuesday at Russellville High School.
The Cardinals (18-8) led by 10 in the fourth quarter before Stover’s defense let it cut into the lead, but the comeback ran out of time.
“We played them twice and they knew our plays and knew what to expect,” said Tipton’s Logan Hirst. “That really helped them to push our offense, and it made us mess up a lot worse. We sped up our pace and started throwing the ball away. We just weren’t mentally prepared for this game.”
Stover (9-16) forced seven turnovers in the fourth quarter alone, as Garrett Goetze and Brock Nolting each had two steals in the quarter.
Tipton had the ball and led 44-35 with just over a minute left in the game until Goetze game through with a steal and a basket on the other end. Danny Johannson followed that with a steal and a layup to cut Tipton’s lead to 44-39, and Tipton missed free throws on its next two possessions. But Stover missed 3-pointers on the other end until Colton Knierim hit a 3 at the buzzer to cut the final margin to three.
Tipton shot 18 of 46 from the field in the game with 15 of those baskets on layups, putbacks and buckets in the lane.
“We struggled shooting the ball all night,” said Tipton coach Billy Jeffries. “Stover played with a lot more energy and a lot more heart than we did. This time of year, you just win and move on. I’d rather play bad now and win than lose down the road. Hopefully, we get that bad game out of us.”
Cooper led the Cardinals with 12 points. Dylan Tate added nine.
“Nobody really got going,” Jeffries said. “We’d go in spurts, hit a wall, go in spurts. We’ve just got to fix that. You knock down shots, it’s a different ballgame.”
For Stover, Goetze came out strong with two points in the first few minutes of the game. He added eight more in the fourth quarter to finish with 16.
“We started double-teaming him more,” Jeffries said. “A couple times when he scored late, he spun away from our double team and got baseline on us. The kid just played with a lot more energy than we did. He single-handedly kept them in the game.”
Nolting scored 11 for the Bulldogs. He had three steals as the Stover defense gave Tipton fits.
“They played hard on the defensive end and played smart,” said Stover coach Mike Schwartz. “Unfortunately, we made a lot of turnovers that turned into easy baskets for them. Defensively, we limited their second shots and that was the important thing. We haven’t done that in the past because Tipton’s a good team.”
Stover pulled down 16 offensive rebounds but managed just 11 second-chance points from those opportunities.
“The first half especially, we missed probably six or seven easy ones,” Schwartz said. “But our kids were fired up to play, and they came out and played one of their best games all year. Obviously, Tipton’s one of the best coached teams and one of the best teams in our conference, and we were honored by playing them and we played hard.”
Stover jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead early in the first quarter with Jordan French hitting a basket in the paint and Goetze adding a basket inside and a baseline jumper.
“The time to get them might be early on, but we kind of wore out,” Schwartz said.
Tipton’s defense then started making stops, holding the Bulldogs to a free throw for the rest of the first quarter, as the Cardinals got a pair of Grant Huhmann baskets to spark a 12-1 run. Cooper added a basket inside, and a steal by Aaron Rugen led to a Logan Hirst layup.
After Nolting opened the second quarter with a basket in the paint, Tipton scored the next six points, including a blocked shot that went directly into the hands of Bryce Sanders who hit a runner in the lane.
Tipton established a 10-point lead before Stover answered late in the second with a 3-pointer by Knierim that made it 25-18 at the break. In the third quarter, Stover quickly got within five with a French jumper, but a Cooper putback and a Hirst basket made it 29-20. Hirst finished with six points in the third quarter alone and 10 in the game.
“I was just trying to stop the ball on defense and trying to keep the ball moving once we got on offense,” he said.
Stover again rallied as Nolting made a three-point play to make it 31-28 Tipton.
Tipton extended the lead again, leading 36-28 at the end of the third and getting four quick points from Tate to open the fourth to build a 40-28 lead before Stover rallied at the end.
“We’ve got to get mentally ready and slow our pace down and work our offense better,” Hirst said.
Tipton will play in the district semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday.