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Chieftains unable to finish off comeback

Bellefontaine got to the tip of the mountain, but could not get over the top.

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Bellefontaine’s Brett Wisner puts the ball up in front of a Tippecanoe player during Monday’s game at Bellefontaine. (EXAMINER PHOTO | MATT HAMMOND)

After falling into a double-digit deficit, the Chiefs regained their footing to knot the score against visiting Tippecanoe twice during the fourth quarter Monday night.

However, a late scoring drought resulted in Bellefontaine falling 55-52 in a Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail division boys basketball game.

Playing its second game without injured guard Matt Gump, the Chiefs again suffered a three-point loss. Bellefontaine lost to Tecumseh by three Friday.

“I thought we showed what type of team we can be,” said Bellefontaine head coach Henry Stolly. “We showed a lot of fight, but you have to play for a full 32 minutes against a team like Tippecanoe. We didn’t do that.”

The Chiefs fall to 5-4 overall and 1-3 in league play. The Red Devils, who are being led by first-year coach Marcus Bixler, improve to 8-2, 2-2.

“We had to fight back the whole game,” said Stolly. “We didn’t have enough left in the tank to finish it off.”

In a contrast to the half-court, deliberate style the Red Devils played under former coach Matt Pond, this year’s team prefers to push the tempo.

Bellefontaine struggled against that quick pace early on. Tippecanoe bolted to an 11-0 lead and later led 14-5 at the end of the first quarter.

“We knew coming in that Tipp was going to play with a lot of energy,” said Stolly. “But it is hard to simulate that. It just felt like we were a step slower than they were tonight.”

The Chiefs clawed back in the second quarter. Bellefontaine began the period on an 8-3 spurt to close to within four points (17-13).

Tippecanoe grabbed the momentum back, pushing its lead to 10 points (31-21) at halftime.

The Red Devils led by 12 early in the third quarter before Bellefontaine made another push.

Two free throws by Logan Mitchell capped a 16-5 run that brought the Chiefs to within a point (38-37) with 1:30 left in the third period.

The visitors answered with five straight points to take a six-point cushion (43-37) heading into the final stanza.

Bellefontaine continued to fight to stay with the Red Devils in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs outscored Tippecanoe 8-2 during the first three minutes of the period to knot the score at 45-45.

The teams traded buckets, leaving the score deadlocked again (47-47) with 4:41 left on the clock.

Bellefontaine’s offense stalled from there. The Chiefs went over four minutes without scoring and the Red Devils rattled off seven straight points.

The hosts did not put the ball in the basket again until Tristin Tillman scored with 17.8 seconds remaining. That cut the Tippecanoe lead to 54-49. It appeared that it was going to be too little too late, but Bellefontaine had one last rally left in its arsenal.

Tippecanoe missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the free throw line with 16.8 ticks left on the clock.

Bellefontaine’s Shaff Gorham raced down the court for a layup that closed the gap to three points at 54-51 with 10.6 seconds remaining.

After a timeout, Bellefontaine got a steal on the ensuing Tippecanoe inbounds pass. A.J. Gorham, who scored a game-high 17 points, found the ball in his hands and launched a three-point attempt.

The shot was short, but Gorham was hit on the arm as he shot the ball and a foul was called. That sent Gorham to the free-throw line for three shots with 6.8 seconds left in the game.

Gorham made the first attempt, but the next two did not fall. Tippecanoe rebounded the second miss and was fouled with 5.2 seconds remaining.

The Red Devils’ Ben Stucke missed the first attempt and made the second to give his team a three-point lead.

Bellefontaine had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but a three-point shot from the corner did not find the mark.

“Our kids did a good job of getting the score even in the fourth quarter, but we really struggled to score in the last four minutes or so,” said Stolly. “It just felt like we ran out of gas there at the end.”

The Chiefs have been looking for someone to step up and become a main scoring threat in the absence of Gump.

A.J. Gorham, a junior guard, answered the call against the Red Devils with his 17-point effort.

“That is two games in a row that I thought A.J. had a really good ball game,” said Stolly. “He has stepped up his game.”

Max Oyer, Tristin Tillman, Brett Wisner, Shaff Gorham and Logan Mitchell each added six points and Jake Kennedy had five for the Chiefs.

Nick Fischer led Tippecanoe with 14 points and Cam Johnson had 13 points.

It will be a quick turnaround for the Chiefs as they return to action tonight at Kenton in non-league play.

“Kenton is like us in that they are trying to find their way with some young players,” said Stolly. “They are fairly young in some spots, but experienced in some others.”

In Monday’s junior varsity game, Bellefontaine pulled out a 49-48 win. Trey Price led the Chiefs with 11 points.

Bellefontaine won the freshman contest 37-23. Lane Wisner paced the Chiefs with 17 points.

TIPPECANOE 55, BELLEFONTAINE 52

TIPPECANOE (8-2, 2-2)

Fischer 4 3-5 14; Hughes 2 0-0 5; Hadden 1 0-1 3; Ervin 1 2-2 4; Ford 0 1-4 1; Stucke 2 3-6 7; Johnson 5 2-4 13; Landwehr 4 0-0 8. Totals: 19 11-22 55.

BELLEFONTAINE (5-4, 1-3)

A. Gorham 5 3-5 17; Oyer 2 2-6 6; Kennedy 2 0-0 5; Tillman 3 0-0 6; Wisner 3 0-0 6; S. Gorham 3 0-0 6; L. Mitchell 1 4-4 6. Totals: 19 9-15 52.

Red Devils    14    17    12    12      —     55

Chiefs    5    16    16    15    —    52

Three pointers: Tippecanoe 6 (Fischer 3, Hughes, Hadden, Johnson); Bellefontaine 5 (A. Gorham 4, Kennedy). Rebounds: Bellefontaine 22 (Oyer 6). Assists: Bellefontaine 11. Steals: Bellefontaine 5. Turnovers: Tippecanoe 6; Bellefontaine 9. Team fouls: Tippecanoe 12 ; Bellefontaine 18.

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