The Tipton Lady Cardinals entered Thursday’s contest in Smithton with a three-year conference win-streak and a knack for forcing a running clock on their opponents. Smithton prevented the latter, but eventually succumbed to the Tipton full court press and three-point talent and lost by a score of 64-48.
Smithton starter Haleigh Ferguson led the Lady Tigers with 22 points. She hit two free throws with 2:15 to play in the first half to bring Smithton within four points.
Lady Cardinal head coach Jason Culpepper said Smithton, defensively, matched up well against his team.
“I thought they did a really good job of playing pretty good man-to-man defense,” Culpepper said. “I thought they did a good job of helping out and knowing who to cover. They did a great job of keeping our girls out of the paint.”
Tipton (11-5) entered halftime with a 29-21 lead, and returned to the court with a vengeance. Their full-court press and fast-break offense proved more effective in the second half, and the Lady Cardinals pushed their lead to 48-34 in the third quarter.
Alyson Brant scored a game-high 29 points for the Lady Cardinals. Destiny Dowell added 19 points. The two combined for all six of Tipton’s three-pointers.
Lady Tiger head coach Bryan Werner said guarding the three-point shot was in their game plan.
“The game plan was to let (Brant) shoot and prove that she can make them,” Werner said. “She did. So she got a couple open ones.
“It was just a matter of trying to help on the drive and still recover to the three.”
Werner commended his team’s effort, despite a near 20-point deficit for most of the second half and three-point shots falling for Tipton.
“I was proud of our girls, we fought back after that, we could have folded,” Werner said. “But we fought back well to make it a game.”
The Lady Cardinals full-court press kept flying going into the fourth quarter with a 51-36 lead. Tipton frequently forced steals off the inbounds pass or soon after against the younger Smithton guards.
Those steals came with a price. Smithton found success using Ferguson in the post and driving to the hoop and, ultimately, drawing fouls. The Lady Tigers reached the double-bonus before halftime, and Tipton’s leading scorer, Brant, fouled out with 1:32 to play.
“We were working hard, but then we put our hands down,” Culpepper said of his team’s on-ball defense. “Anytime you put your hands down, it’s just so easy for a ref to call it, especially if that girl drives.”
Both teams play Monday. Smithton travels to Otterville for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off. Tipton travels to Lincoln for a 6 p.m. tip.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1483