BETHEL — Down by 16 points with just over a quarter to play, and down 15 points with 6:10 remaining, it appeared the unbeaten league season that Blanchester had hoped for was destined to end Saturday night at Bethel-Tate.
Brayden Sipple refused to let that happen.
Sipple scored 43 points, including 22 in the fourth quarter. His final two points came at the end of a 14-foot jumper as time expired to give Blanchester an improbable 58-56 victory.
“It’s just clutch,” BHS head coach Adam Weber said. “There are all kinds of great players who have played this game. There’s a difference between a great player and a clutch player. The clutch player finds a way to will the team to a victory. That’s what he does.
“Some of our opponents have us dead to rights, and he finds a way to pull it out.”
Blanchester improved to 7-1 overall with the win and 5-0 in the SBC National Division. The Wildcats ended the game on a 21-4 run over the final 6:06.
“Our guys have won seven in a row, and it’s not by accident,” Weber said. “They believe and expect to win. They have such great chemistry.”
Out of those 22 points, 21 were scored in about four minutes of game time. He started the Blanchester comeback with a basket with 6:38 remaining.
Between then and the 3:36 mark, when he gave Blanchester its first lead since the first quarter, he scored 19 points. That run included a tomahawk dunk with 4:40 remaining that pulled Blanchester within two.
“He’s dunked probably 50 to 60 times in four years,” Weber said. “That one probably had as much attitude behind it as I’ve ever seen. I think that put Bethel-Tate … they were backpedaling.”
Blanchester rallied in large part to a change in defense. Assistant coach Ron Harris suggested the Wildcats switch to a 1-3-1 zone trap. Blanchester forced seven of the Tigers’ 16 turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“Got to give Coach Harris credit on this one,” Weber said. “He said we should switch to the 1-3-1 trap that he runs with the JV. Our guys just used their length and effort and that helped us win the ballgame.”
After taking the lead and an empty Bethel-Tate possession, Blanchester held the ball while the Tigers remained in a zone defense and watched them. The Wildcats burned 1:45 off the clock, but the possession ended in Sipple picking up his fourth foul with 1:17 left.
Bryce Sipple made a free throw to push Blanchester’s lead to 55-53 with 38.6 left. Kyle Smith, who led the Tigers with 19 points, added a free throw of his own with 31.2 left to make it a one-point game again.
Once again, it would be the younger Sipple who was fouled with 17.2 left. He made one of two again, and Blanchester led 56-54.
On the ensuing Tiger possession, Smith got the ball inside, where he was dominant all night. He scored to tie the game with 5.4 seconds remaining.
As it turned out, that was too much time remaining for Brayden Sipple.
Sipple caught the inbounds pass 65 feet from his basket, dribbled around two defenders, drove inside the arc and hit a floating jumper from 14-feet away. The ball dropped through the net as the buzzer sounded, and Blanchester’s comeback was complete.
With his 43-point outing, Sipple now has 2,132 career points. He needs four points to pass Port William legend Don Fields for second on the all-time Clinton County scoring list. He is 276 points behind Wilmington’s Jarron Cumberland for first all-time.
For the Tigers, Smith added six rebounds to go with his 19 points. Austin Brookenthal had a double-double, scoring 10 points and adding 14 rebounds.
“You watch Bethel-Tate in warm-ups, and they’ve got some athletes,” Weber said. “Their athletes were hurting us in the first half.”
For Blanchester, it was the 13th straight win over a National Division opponent and the seventh straight over the Tigers. Bethel-Tate’s last win over Blanchester was Feb. 10, 2017.
Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021
At Bethel-Tate High School
Blanchester 58, Bethel-Tate 56
(58) BLANCHESTER (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Bryce Sipple 0-0-3-3, Brison Lucas 0-0-2-2, Bryce Highlander 1-1-0-3, Hunter Hartmann 1-1-0-3, Brayden Sipple 13-2-15-43, Logan Heitzman 2-0-0-4. TOTALS 17-4-20-58.
(56) BETHEL-TATE (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Kyle Smith 8-0-3-19, Ashton Wolfe 3-0-5-11, Jaxson Little 5-2-2-14, Noah Weis 0-0-2-2, Austin Brookenthal 5-0-0-10. TOTALS 21-2-12-56.
FIELD GOALS: B 17/43 (Bra. Sipple 13/23); BT 21/47 (Smith 8/15, Little 5/16, Brookenthal 5/10)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: B 4/20 (Bra. Sipple 2/8); BT 2/14 (Little 2/10)
FREE THROWS: B 20/27 (Bra. Sipple 20/27; Bry. Sipple 3/6; Lucas 2/2); BT 12/20 (Wolfe 5/7)
REBOUNDS: B 25 (Bra. Sipple 7, Hartmann 5, Heitzman 4); BT 35 (Brookenthal 14, Smith 6)
ASSISTS: B 5; BT 9 (Wolfe 6)
STEALS: B 11 (Highlander 3); BT 3
BLOCKED SHOTS: B 4; BT 2
TURNOVERS: B 6; BT 16