For the first 30 minutes of their first round game at the Piqua Holiday Tournament, the Tippecanoe boys’ basketball team had things in hand, leading every second from the tipoff and looking for a spot in the championship game on Friday.
What happened after that was a test of will.
Belmont survived nine lead changes from the final two minutes of regulation through a pair of overtimes, and defeated the Red Devils 64-62 to drop into the consolation game at Piqua last Thursday.
In the consolation game, the Red Devils defeated an old league rival Tecumseh 67-42 to capture third place in their pool. Josh Wildermuth and Caiden Smith each scored 18 to lead the Red Devils. Smith was also named to the all-tournament team.
In the opener against Belmont, Tipp was in control early, building a lead throughout the opening quarter. Freshman Ben Sauls opened the scoring with a three to set the early tone, and he added another short jumper along with a big shot from Smith, giving Tipp a 9-4 lead with three minutes left in the first quarter.
After Belmont stopped the Tipp run, the Red Devils went on a 6-0 run over the final minute of the quarter including a bit three from Sauls near the buzzer, sending the Red Devils in front 15-6 after the first eight minutes of play.
Belmont fought back with a run early in the second quarter to cut their deficit to 17-13 before Tipp put together another run behind Adam Grieshop and Caiden Smith, to take a 21-13 lead with three minutes left in the half.
A rebound from Smith and last second layup from Sauls at the halftime buzzer sent the Red Devils into the half leading Belmont 25-16.
The second half saw the Bison storm out and get right back into the game. A big three with six minutes left in the third period closed the Tipp lead to 26-23, but the Red Devils responded. An old fashioned three-point play from Sauls and Cade Gingerich scored at the rim pushed the Tipp lead back out to 33-26 with 2:35 left in the third period.
Tipp maintained their lead through the second half, and never relinquished it until Belmont went on an 8-0 lead with just under two minutes left to take a 46-45 lead.
Smith stepped up in the final minute for the Red Devils with a free throw and a big three with seven seconds left to cut the Belmont lead to 52-51.
After the Bison hit one free throw, Wildermuth scored at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
In the second overtime, Quinten Williams hit a layup with 35 seconds left to tie the game and Tipp was ready to head to a third overtime. The Bison scored with six seconds left, and held on for the two point win.