Hoping this will be the first of several nets to cut down in the weeks ahead, Tippecanoe Valley senior Corinna Stiles takes part in the celebration after Saturday night's sectional championship. Photos by Gary Nieter
Hoping this will be the first of several nets to cut down in the weeks ahead, Tippecanoe Valley senior Corinna Stiles takes part in the celebration after Saturday night's sectional championship. Photos by Gary Nieter
BREMEN – The Tippecanoe Valley Lady Vikings banked on their experience and their confidence going nine-deep with personnel in critical moments to hold off the feisty, upset-minded John Glenn Falcons to capture the IHSAA Class 3A Sectional 18 title Saturday night 44-38.

There were four returning Viking senior starters on the floor at the game’s outset with the memory of last year’s sectional final upset at the hands of 5-17 West Noble. They were well-aware teams like last year’s West Noble team and this year’s opponent, the Falcons, view the postseason as a reset.

Saturday night, those seniors were determined not to suffer the same outcome at the hands of the upstart Falcons (10-15). Concern grew when Valley’s whose 7-point run whittled Valley’s 27-17 halftime lead to 27-24.

“I was keeping my teammates in a positive state,” Viking senior guard Kaydence Mellott said. “Giving them a good reminder that we know what to do… goes a long way.”

“The fourth quarter came down to senior leadership,” Valley head coach Chris Kindig said. “I’m really happy for those five seniors.”

Five (?) seniors one might ask with a raised eyebrow.

Enter the fifth Lady Vikings senior, Rochester transfer 6’1” post Mille Scorsone, released for play in Friday night’s sectional semifinal.

Scorsone, with the Friday debut now behind her, contributed six first half points including a buzzer-beating offensive rebound put-back to punctuate other contributions: crisp kick-out passes from the high post, rebounding, and interior defense.

“(I’m) a lot more comfortable (than Friday night),” said the post player with a keen eye for open shooters. “I think we all dug in at the end and pulled off that win.”

The aforementioned three-point lead Valley was clinging to after a 5:15 scoreless third frame drought was another call to arms for Scorsone and other Viking reserves.

Mellott, held to five points 21 minutes into the fray, was open when the Falcons chose to double down on Scorsone at the post. The newest Viking senior kicked out a sharp pass to Mellott for a 3-point basket, and Valley fans exhaled, then exploded when the shot ripped the cords with 2:45 left in the third stanza.

“At Rochester a lot of our offense was getting that post kickout,” Scorsone said. “We have the shooters on this team, and I can trust the teammates I have to hit the shots. When I’m out on the post and (defenders) double down they’re usually open.”

Mellott was just as confident as she was when the contest opened. She shared the voice in her mind as she launched the shot that broke the Vikings’ schneid.

“We need this. You got this. Just go for it,” the 2021-2022 Times-Union Player of The Year said.

Viking freshman guard Gaby Gonzalez also contributed to Valley’s reversal of fortune. Customarily called into action for aggressive defense, Gonzalez was trying to shake a John Glenn double-team when Scorsone set a pick at the right elbow from her post position so the 5’4” guard could hairpin-turn around her and drive the baseline for a layup to move further ahead 32-24 42 seconds after Mellott’s trey.

“I had confidence in the shot that I made because I work on that move and shot every day,” Gonzalez remarked.

Scorsone finished the evening with 10 points and four assists. Mellott eventually cracked double figures to lead the offensive effort with 12 points.

The Falcons’ 5’11” senior guard Kennedy Hayden finished the period’s scoring with a trey to keep her team within reach, trailing 32-27.

Hayden and her sister, 5’11” freshman center Lucy Hayden, scored 7 of John Glenn’s 11 fourth quarter points as the two teams played a solid 2-3 zone for most of the final period enroute to the 44-38 Valley win, their first sectional title since 2017.

Mellott knew what to do to assure her Lady Viking teammates did not move toward the direction of last year’s sectional title game outcome when the Falcons drew to within three points.

The stat sheet reflected varied sets of contributors to the sectional title win among different phases of the game.

Other Valley’s seniors Kindig mentioned included senior 6’0” forward Corinna Stiles was held scoreless, but she hauled in 6 rebounds, and played a role in transition to break the Falcons’ press.

Senior guard Lily Ault added two treys in an opening game 16-6 run by the sectional champions when Falcon defenders were double teaming Mellott and Stiles.

Point guard Molly Moriarty, who added her only bucket of the night, a 3-point basket in the same opening run, piloted the Vikings’ offensive sets throughout the evening.

Macy Peterson (4 points), and Chesnee Miller (2 points) were called upon to blend with Lady Viking starters to maintain high levels of defensive pressure among the second, third and fourth quarters.

Kindig feels the two tournament wins with varied contributors bodes well for his squad when they face Mishawaka Marian Saturday at 1 p.m. in Jimtown.

“This team has really good balance,” Kindig noted. “Last night we had (a lot) of girls score. If we continue to do that the sky’s the limit for this group.”

“We just need to push each other,” Mellott added regarding the week’s preparation for an elite team like Marian. “Iron sharpens iron.”

The Saturday regional winner will advance to the semistate, where the previous year’s two-game regional format has shifted.