The Tippecanoe Valley community came out in droves to support their Lady Vikings at a prep rally Friday afternoon. The team was serenaded with cheers, well wishes and received a video tribute from former Tippy Valley players. Photo by Connor McCann
The Tippecanoe Valley community came out in droves to support their Lady Vikings at a prep rally Friday afternoon. The team was serenaded with cheers, well wishes and received a video tribute from former Tippy Valley players. Photo by Connor McCann
Just 32 teams, eight in each of the state’s four classes, remain and have hopes of hoisting a state championship trophy in just over a week in Indianapolis. One of those teams, the Tippecanoe Valley Lady Vikings, will head to LaPorte High school Saturday afternoon for the newly revamped Semi-State round playing some of their best basketball of the season.

Winners of nine in a row and 19 of their last 20, the Lady Vikings are fresh off of winning their second regional title in school history over Mishawaka Marian last Saturday at Jimtown High School. The 67-54 victory showcased everything that makes Valley so dangerous.

Starting with the defense, it took a team effort to hold the Knights to just 23 second-half points, including nine in the third quarter. The standout on that end of the floor was junior Chesnee Miller. But as Valley head coach Chris Kindig will tell you, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Miller has consistently guarded the best offensive player of each opponent Valley has faced so far this season. Saturday was possibly her finest performance yet, holding potential Indiana All-Star, Northern Indiana Conference MVP and Western Kentucky University commit Nevaeh Foster to just 10 points in the regional. Eight of those points were scored in the first quarter, six before Miller checked in. The final two points Foster scored over the final three periods came at the free-throw line.

The 22-3 Lady Viking team heading into their state quarterfinal showdown with 25-2 Fairfield has the same roster that the Lady Viking team that started the season at 3-2 had. However, the confidence the team has played with has improved drastically, leading to perhaps its best performance of the season in the regional.

“We played our best when our best was required,” Kindig said. “Confidence and believing in yourselves matters all year long, not just in the state tournament. We have girls that continue to understand and embrace their roles and that has made us an incredibly deep and dangerous team in the tournament.”

Every player that has checked into a game for Valley this season knows what is expected of them. Senior Kaydence Mellott is almost impossible to lock down on the defensive end. Senior Molly Moriarty and Freshman Gaby Gonzalez act as the team’s primary point guards. Macy Petersen, Kelsey Cox or Carlee Snyder can all come in and provide rebounding and post scoring at any time. These are all players and jobs the Valley faithful know well by now, as almost every player on the team has played their role well enough to change the outcome of a game over the course of the season.

Tippecanoe Valley’s biggest weakness all season long has been taking care of the basketball. The Lady Vikings have won more than a few games by closer margins than expected due to some sloppy play. The team’s Achilles Heel reared its ugly head in the opening minutes of the regional, as Valley committed four turnovers on its first four possessions, allowing Marian to jump out to a quick 6-0 start.

“We really struggled with turnovers earlier in the year. The types of turnovers are also important,” Kindig said. “You can’t turn it over where it puts your defensive positioning in jeopardy and give up easy baskets. It’s an on-going process and a mentality that has steadily improved throughout the year.”

Despite boasting five seniors and 9-10 players that see playing time every game, Tippy Valley will be at an experience disadvantage in their matchup with Fairfield. The Falcons are back in the Semi-State round for the second consecutive year. Winners of their last 14 games, Fairfield has won 13 of those contests by double-digits. Just two of the team’s 25 wins this season (a school record) have been decided by single digits, including Fairfield’s 40-32 regional win over Highland. Their average margin of victory sits at 27 points, the sixth best mark in the state. Over the past two seasons, Valley’s opponent has combined for 49 wins.

Senior forward Brea Garber will be the player to watch out for. The Indiana Wesleyan recruit has done it all for Fairfield this season, averaging a team-high 15 points a night while also leading the team in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. The Falcons boast the best defensive average in the state, allowing just 27 points a game. Despite the tough task ahead of his team, Kindig insists that their preparation has not changed.

“We just keep trying to make these tournament weeks as normal as possible for the girls,” Kindig remarked. “That way we can stay focused on the task at hand, which is to win basketball games. We are 22-3 for a reason and we will stay the course.”

The Lady Vikings and Falcons will be the second game played at LaPorte Saturday afternoon, with a 12 p.m. local, 1 p.m. ET expected start time. The appetizer for the Valley-Fairfield contest will be a doozy on its own, as undefeated (27-0) Twin Lakes will put its perfect record on the line once again against 20-5 Hamilton Heights at 10 a.m. CT. The two winners will face off at 7:30 p.m. CT with a trip to Gainbridge Fieldhouse and a spot in the illustrious state championship game on the line.

“Our vibe right now is really good and positive. They want to keep this thing going,” Kindig said. “Our senior group has been great leaders during this run. They are not done or satisfied with just ‘getting there.’ They want more.”