For three quarters in the Class 2A regional semifinals Saturday morning, the Delphi Oracles were every bit as good as No. 2 Tipton.
But the Oracles could not overcome poor shooting and foul trouble as the Blue Devils opened the fourth quarter with a 15-0 run to seal a 60-48 victory over their Hoosier Conference foe.
It was the second time this season that Delphi put a scare into Tipton, only to see the contest slip away in the second half. The Oracles lost to the Blue Devils in December, 57-55.
After trailing 30-26 at halftime, the Oracles went into fourth quarter tied 38-all before the wheels fell off offensively. Delphi turned the ball over five times, missed two shots and a one-and-one opportunity while Tipton raced out to a 53-38 lead to all but ice the contest.
“We came into the fourth quarter right where we wanted to be,” said Delphi’s Cole Murray, who led the Oracles with 13 points. “All we wanted was a chance. We kind of ran out of gas. We thought we had a good shot, but they showed why they’re No. 2 in the state and were able to put us away.”
Mike Crawford led the Blue Devils with 27 points, but 15 of those points came from the free throw line. Crawford struggled to find room against Delphi’s defense.
“He’s difficult for us to cover, because he’s really big and strong and has great mobility,” Delphi coach Michael Lewis said. “He can find gaps and shove his way through. Then, when you send him to the free throw line, he converts. The challenge against Tipton is that you’ve got to play well against them for 32 minutes.”
At times, Delphi looked like a team destined to threaten Tipton on its home court, as Ricky Windell (10 points) barreled through open lanes in the paint for layups and Blake Walters knocked down three 3-point shots in the first half.
But the Oracles struggled to close out quarters, leaving the door open for Tipton to regain its footing. Delphi failed to score over the last 1:50 of the first quarter, missing its last three shots and allowing Tipton to cut a five-point deficit to 15-13.
In the second quarter, Delphi failed to score over the final 3:10 and the Blue Devils went on an 8-0 run to grab a 30-26 lead.
Then, with Tipton struggling to score against Delphi’s defense, the Oracles were blanked over the final 3:11 of the third period after they rallied to take the lead. A Luke Shively jumper tied the game at 38-all for Tipton to set up the fourth quarter.
“Every possession is extremely important in a game of this magnitude,” Lewis said. “I thought we had opportunities to extend leads and didn’t take advantage of them. Against the No. 2 team in the state on their home floor, you’ve got to convert when you’ve got those opportunities. Unfortunately for us, it just didn’t happen.”
The Oracles took their best shot to open the third quarter, scoring the first eight points. Sparked by a Murray layup and a Brent Hawn 3-pointer, Delphi took a 34-30 lead.
“We knew he had to come out strong, because that’s where they killed us the first time we played them,” Murray said. “We had other guys step up and play well today. It’s not just me.”
Tipton coach Brad Dickey said Delphi’s third-quarter run got the Blue Devils’ attention.
“They just improved so much, and Delphi is just a good program under coach Lewis,” Dickey said. “He did such a good job at preparing their dribblers and shooters against us that it made for a very tough challenge for us today.”
Dickey said he relied on two of his tallest players, 6-foot-4 Nate Friend and 6-foot-5 Crawford, to body Murray on the outside and limit him to one 3-point field goal. Dickey said he sent a guard after Murray when he put the ball on the floor to look for room.
“I think our depth helped us, because we were able to use a lot of guards to balance the workload and the fouls,” Dickey said. “We played 12 guys today, so that’s a credit to the entire program.”