After exiting last year’s postseason tournament a little earlier than they would’ve liked, the Tippecanoe Valley Lady Vikings came out ready to roll in their tournament game of 2023 against host school Bremen in the semifinal of 3A Sectional 18 Friday night. Tippy Valley used a monster 24-0 run early on in the game to put the Lions into a hole they would not be able to crawl out of.

“We talked in the locker room about how important a good start is when you’re playing the home team in the sectional,” Tippy Valley head coach Chris Kindig said. “They’d already played a game and that can be a good or bad thing but I’m proud of how this group showed up tonight.”

The Lady Vikings wasted little time showing why many pegged them as sectional favorites before the tournament began. After allowing the opening basket of the game, the avalanche began. It didn’t matter what Bremen did to try to stop Tippy Valley, as the visitors took whatever the hosts threw at them and countered in a massive way. Seven different players put the ball in the basket during the 24-0 run that spanned nearly the entire first quarter as well as the beginning of the second.

It was a complete quarter for Valley that showcased a little bit of everything the team can do. Seniors Molly Moriarty, Corinna Stiles and Lily Ault all hit big threes that began to take the once rabid Bremen student section out of the game. Junior Chesnee Miller was everywhere on the defensive end, tipping passes and grabbing a few steals. It seemed that whatever Tippecanoe Valley wanted early, it got.

“Our seniors played like seniors tonight. They were ready to put it away from the opening tip,” Kindig remarked.

Needing something to go their way, the Lions began to turn up the physicality to try and slow Valley down, the Lady Vikings welcomed this adjustment with open arms. Tippy Valley absorbed any and all contact that came its way and used it as a means to stack up the free throw numbers early. Senior Kaydence Mellott shot nine free throws in the first half, making seven. After eight minutes, everything was clicking for the visitors.

Tippecanoe Valley’s fifth senior, 6’1” center Millie Scorsone, picked up some meaningful minutes in this one with the junior varsity season being over. Clogging up the paint, Scorsone scored two points to go with five rebounds.

“It’s really important to get her in the mix. She had a few shots that she missed tonight that she doesn’t usually,” Kindig said. “Defensively she altered quite a few shots tonight because girls were afraid to go up and at her. I think she’s going to help us a lot tomorrow night and going forward.”

The second quarter was not as kind to Valley as the first. While the team used its signature tenacious defense to make things incredibly difficult for Bremen, the offensive efficiency that became the storyline of the first period had disappeared. Instead, the Lady Vikings let more than a few possessions go to waste due to turnovers. The Lions would make a few shots on the other end to keep things respectable, but still had a tall hill to climb with Valley up 19 at the halftime break.

“I think part of it was us trying some different combinations tonight, some that we haven’t used all season long,” Kindig said. “The middle quarters kind of reflected that, I think maybe the girls weren’t used to who they were out on the court with. We wanted to use our depth to wear them down.”

The third quarter was not much kinder for the Lady Vikings to start. The offensive woes of the second period rolled over as the team continued to struggle taking care of the ball and getting good looks. On the other side, the Lions continued to chip away at the lead, getting it down to 13 midway through the third and forcing Kindig to call a timeout. Despite the visitors being in control for the entirety of the game up to this point, things started to seem a little shaky.

Following the timeout, Bremen would not get any closer. The Lady Vikings turned up the intensity once again and began playing with the purpose that had eluded them over the previous 12 minutes. A big part of regaining control was Tippy Valley’s work on the offensive glass. In one sequence, Mellott grabbed three offensive rebounds in a row before finally getting a layup to fall. The guard finished her night with 20 points and an even 10 rebounds to secure the double-double.

“Kaydence has done that all year long. She was aggressive tonight which is what we need out of her. She did a great job of putting herself into position to get to the free throw line all night long and then obviously converting her chances,” Kindig remarked.

Despite leading by 15 heading into the final eight minutes of action, it seemed as if the host school had one more run in them. Kindig’s squad put that thought to rest rather quickly, starting the period with a 6-0 run to go back up by 20. Though the Lions would inch closer at times, the result now seemed out of the question.

Other top performers for Valley included Stiles (seven points, nine rebounds), Molly Moriarty (six points, four steals) and Chesnee Miller (four points, four steals).

Tippecanoe Valley will compete for its first sectional title since 2017 and ninth in school history Saturday night against John Glenn. Tip off from Bremen is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

“They play a lot of zone, they’ve got smart players,” Kindig said. “A few players we have to keep our eyes on but we’re going to watch some film tonight and we’re going to have to play well.”