TIPP CITY — Friday was a fresh start and a new slate for Butler and Tippecanoe, two basketball teams that struggled mightily last season with only five wins combined.
Two new coaches — DJ Wyrick for the Aviators and Joel Visser for the Red Devils — faced off in the non-league season opener.
In a nip-and-tuck game, the halftime score was knotted at 30-30. Tied at 44-44 early in the fourth quarter, the Aviators opened up a 56-51 lead with a minute left in the game and held on for a 58-55 victory.
“It was all about senior leadership,” said Aviator coach DJ Wyrick. “The seniors really stepped up in a big way.”
Zach Ledbetter, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, paced the Aviators with 18 points. Senior guards Noah Ballard and Torin Fletcher tallied 11 points each. Senior James Clark added nine points.
Ballard triggered the fourth-quarter with three baskets, including a steal near midcourt and a fast-break basket for a 52-46 bulge over the Red Devils.
After a three-pointer by Red Devil junior Aaron Hughes, Ledbetter scored in the paint for a 54-49 lead. Ballard hit two crucial free throws in the final second to maintain the five-point cushion. A Red Devil bank shot as time expired cut the final Butler winning score to 58-55.
“The best part was this was a team win for us,” Wyrick waid. “The team is buying in to what we do. For sure, there’s no better feeling in the locker-room than after a road win.”
The Aviators connected on 16 of 23 shots from the charity stripe. The Red Devils, meanwhile, were 20 of 25 from the line. The Aviators, however, held a 29-26 rebound edge.
Butler travels to Lebanon at 7:30 p.m. at Lebanon and to Sidney at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11.
Score by quarters:
Butler 18 30 44 58
Tipp 13 30 37 55
Butler Scoring: Ballard 4-2-11, Fletcher 4-2-11, Glover 0-2-2, Clark 3-3-9, Ledbetter 6-6-18, Jenkins 1-0-2, Sanders 2-1-5. Totals: 20-16-58. Three-pointers: Ballard, Fletcher
Tipp scoring: Hughes 5-8-21, C. Mann 1-2-4. H. Mann 1-0-2, Shirley 0-4-4, Wildermuth 3-6-12, Grideshop 2-0-4, Tesh 3-0-6. Totals: 15-20-55. Three-pointers: Hughes 4,
Reach Gary Gregory by contacting Greg Smart at 684-8088.