Last season, Class 2A No. 9 Tipton came into Case Arena and used a 31-11 rebounding advantage to squeak out an eight-point win over a 7-11 Frankfort team.
Things have changed a bit this season.
Class 3A No. 13 Frankfort (14-4, 4-1 Sagamore Athletic Conference) enters tonight’s contest winners of nine of their last 10 games. And the Blue Devils (18-1), as of Monday, were crowned the top-ranked team in Class 2A after Park Tudor lost to Broad Ripple last weekend.
Frankfort is relishing the opportunity to knock off a top-ranked team.
“Any time you get the opportunity to play somebody that’s ranked, it’s a blessing and it’s a fun game,” said Frankfort head coach Tom Weeks. “This situation is more fun because we’re the underdog going into their place and it gives us a little less pressure this time around than some other teams.”
Tipton is the top-ranked team in Class 2A almost strictly because of senior superstar Mike Crawford (27.8 points per game). Crawford represents 44 percent of the Blue Devils’ scoring offense, and the Hot Dogs’ defensive game plan will be geared toward containing him.
“Every team knows going into that game who to stop, and he’s still averaging 28 points a game. That’s a heck of an achievement,” Weeks said. “That tells you what kind of player he is, Indiana All-Star caliber. We have to contend with that going in.”
Crawford will play at Division I Saint Louis University next year and was part of the Indiana Junior All-Stars South team last summer.
Crawford scored a season-high of 43 points against Westfield on Dec. 15. He’s also scored more than 30 points six times, tallying 35 against Kokomo and 34 on Sheridan.
Tipton’s lone loss came against Class 4A No. 2 Columbus North (18-1).
Tipton has a pair of capable outside shooters in senior Blake Hoover (10.6 ppg) and freshman Mason Degenkolb (7.7 ppg) that can cause problems for opponents.
“Even though he’s 44 percent of the offense, there’s still 56 somewhere else,” Weeks said. “That’s enough to kill you.”
Two of Frankfort’s last three opponents saw their standout player – Danville’s Ian Asher (31 points) and North Montgomery’s Nathan Rogers (29 points) – put up big scoring numbers. Besides Crawford, the Hot Dogs are going to see another high-scoring athlete on Saturday night in Southmont’s Devon Burton (21.8 ppg). He’s one of three Mounties averaging more than 13 ppg.
“That’s been the great thing about this schedule. We’ve played tough competition and tough players,” Week said. “When you get both, especially with the number-one ranked team, what an opportunity it is to play and get some work done for the postseason.”
Southmont (13-4, 3-3 SAC), despite the sparkling record, has struggled mightily against the elite teams on its schedule. The Mounties lost by 43 points to Lebanon and 31 points to Danville, and also have losses to Covington and Tri-West.
The Hornets (10-9) always have the Lafayette Central Catholic game circled on their schedule, and tonight’s contest is no exception. The Knights (10-8) enter the game as the 10th-ranked team in Class A and own high-profile wins over 3A teams Frankfort and Guerin Catholic, and close losses to Tipton, West Lafayette and Harrison.
LCC has played up-and-down at points, but when the Knights are hitting their 3-pointers, opponents are prone to lose. And the Knights’ coaching staff was in attendance for the Hornets’ game against Sheridan when the Blackhawks hit 10 3-pointers.
“The first thing is, make sure we get out on their shooters defensively,” said Rossville head coach Dave Mosson. “Crashing the defensive boards is always a concern; it’s always a goal to make sure we don’t give up a lot of offensive rebounds.”
Rossville defenders will try to hedge on screens and stay with the player they’re assigned to. Mosson said the Hornets match up physically and size-wise with the Knights.
“Ideally, we want to snuggle up defensively to them and not have to do a lot of adjustments,” Mosson said.
Rossville is one of only three Class A teams Central Catholic plays. The Knights have won 10 consecutive games over the Hornets, with the last RHS win coming in the 2006-07 regular season.
The Hornets righted the ship last week, defeating Attica and Sheridan after losing four consecutive contests. Saturday’s win against Sheridan came on the strength of Rossville’s two leading scorers, Brandon Tonsoni (16.2 ppg) and Austin Miller (11.9 ppg), scoring 27 and 19 points, respectively.
It was the first time in five games both scored more than 13 points in the same contest.
“Saturday was the first game all year where they were both on,” Mosson said. “They’ve shot the ball well in practice the last week or so. We had a couple of adjustments in our motion offense that’s been beneficial and got them freed up a little bit more often.”
Clinton Prairie (2-15, 0-4 Hoosier Heartland Conference) has a pair of games on the weekend slate, playing Tri-Central (7-11, 2-2 HHC) at home tonight and at Attica (8-8) on Saturday.
The Gophers have lost seven straight to Tri-Central.