Viking senior Tayde Kiser skies over his defender for some separation during Tippecanoe Valley’s 57-56 win over Warsaw Tuesday night, their first since 2013. Photos by Gary Nieter
Viking senior Tayde Kiser skies over his defender for some separation during Tippecanoe Valley’s 57-56 win over Warsaw Tuesday night, their first since 2013. Photos by Gary Nieter
In the series between Warsaw and Tippecanoe Valley, it hasn’t gone the way of the Vikings very often.

The last time Valley defeated Warsaw was 2013. The last time the Vikings won at the Tiger Den was 2006. Thanks to a last second shot by Valley senior Nolan Cumberland, both streaks came to an end Tuesday night as Valley won a back and forth affair 57-56, spoiling Warsaw’s senior night in the process.

“Our fans came out in droves tonight. It’s special how outstanding our following is to make almost every game feel like a home game,” Valley head coach Joe Luce said after the game. “We didn’t just cruise to a win. We had adversity tonight but we stayed together and played to win the game. Our guys got off the bus expecting to win the game and they got it done.”

The rivalry’s intensity could be felt pulsing throughout the Tiger Den as the opening tip occurred. The opening seconds of the game indicated the physicality fans would see throughout the course of the contest as Tiger center Luke Yeager picked up two fouls in the opening 20 seconds. The two sides combined for 10 fouls in the first eight minutes.

“That’s what you want this time of year,” Tiger head coach Matt Moore said. “You want a close, tough game where all of the details matter.”

Both sides began the game with fine displays of offensive efficiency. Each team made its first three shots from the field, with two of Warsaw’s first three makes coming from Yeager’s replacement, Andrew Potter. Scoring stalled during the middle minute of the opening period, with each side showing off some defensive prowess. After a mid range shot from Tiger sophomore Luke Bricker ended the quarter, the Vikings were in front by the slim margin of one point.

Tippecanoe Valley opened up the second quarter of play with an avalanche. Two big threes from senior guard Cooper Walls highlighted an 8-0 Valley run that spanned a little over two minutes and forced a Tiger timeout. However, Warsaw was able to weather the storm. The Tigers settled in defensively after the break in action and were able to start creeping back after a couple of offensive rebounds from Trai Davis led to easy points.

“We know we can put the ball in the basket but we need to be able to string some stops together,” Moore said. “These are the games we want our guys to compete in. We showed fight, we grinded out possessions and never let them take us out of the game.”

Warsaw continued battling back, while Valley senior Tayde Kiser continued to keep his team in front on the other end. Kiser had it going from deep, the paint and the free throw line, scoring eleven points in the first half and 25 in the game. Despite Kiser’s efforts on the offensive end, some shot making from Bricker as well as seniors Gould and Heckaman continued to inch the Tigers closer. When the halftime buzzer sounded, Valley’s lead remained at just one point. The Vikings’ leading scorer, Cumberland, was held to just two points in the first half.

The second half began much like the first did, only with roles reversed. Valley would be called for two fouls in the opening 20 seconds of the third quarter. Each team looked like a heavyweight fighter to tip off the second half, trading baskets instead of punches. On one end, Kiser and Walls were hitting threes to try and keep their team’s momentum. On the other, Heckaman got the crowd going with back-to-back breakaway dunks. The forward continued his impressive run by leading his team in scoring once again with 16 points.

The two teams ran up and down the court faster than eyes could keep up with, filling up the scoreboard in the process. Neither side was able to separate during this stretch, with each side holding brief leads before the other either tied the game or took the lead for themselves. In the waning moments of the period, Gould would knock down his second three-point shot of the night to give the Tigers a three-point lead, their largest of the night heading into the fourth quarter. Walls, who had scored eleven points for Valley through three quarters, fouled out in the final minute of the third.

“We feel like if teams want to try and run with us, we can be successful with that,” Luce said. “I don’t think we managed the end of that quarter too well with Cooper fouling out but I trust our players. With the way we’ve guarded teams all team long we can get some good pressure going.”

With most in attendance catching their breath after the previous quarter, the fourth offered a much slower pace of play with each side being much more deliberate in what they were trying to do. Warsaw remained in front for the first few minutes of the period despite Kiser’s best efforts to keep his team in the game. Warsaw took its time on offense, lulling the Viking defense to sleep before finding an open player under the basket for a wide open shot. The strategy worked wonders, as no matter what Valley did on the offensive end, the team could not come up with a stop.

The Vikings would finally break through with two minutes remaining in the game. Cumberland would be fouled on a layup attempt, making both his shot and the free throw that followed to give Valley its first lead of the fourth. From that moment, the lead would change hands four more times in the final 120 seconds. The final occurrence would take place with 10 seconds left, as Cumberland would hit a floater to put his team in front for the final time. Warsaw would get one final look at the basket on a three pointer from Gould, but it hit the back of the rim.

“We wanted our two best players on the side of the floor and we got that,” Luce said. “We put the players in the right spots and the kids made the play.”

Joining Kiser and Walls as top scorers for Valley were Cumberland with eleven and Stephen Akase with six. For the Tigers, Gould followed Heckaman with 12 points, while Davis and Bricker added eight.

Both teams play their final regular season game Friday night, with Warsaw (13-9) hosting Carroll (Fort Wayne) while Valley (18-4) returns to Rita Price Simpson Court to take on Mishawaka Marian.