Tippecanoe Valley senior Dawson Perkins finds himself sandwiched by NorthWood's Ian Raasch and Cade Brenner while battling for a rebound.
Tippecanoe Valley senior Dawson Perkins finds himself sandwiched by NorthWood's Ian Raasch and Cade Brenner while battling for a rebound.
SYRACUSE – Faced with a tough semifinal matchup in IHSAA Class 3A Sectional 21, the Tippecanoe Valley Vikings went toe to toe with the No. 3 NorthWood Panthers, holding their own for a majority of the contest before eventually falling 38-33.

With the Hardwood Teepee already buzzing from Wawasee’s victory a half hour prior, the atmosphere did not drop off in the slightest. Fans of both teams made themselves heard as the two sides went back and forth in an incredibly exciting first period that featured four lead changes. Coming off a triple-double in the opening round of the sectional, Valley senior Dawson Perkins was fed early and often as the Vikings tried to exploit the shorter Panther defenders. He’d have six in the first half on his way to scoring nine in the contest.

With the two teams locked into a seesaw of a battle after one, Valley would make a move in the second. Hanging tough and playing lights out defense, the Vikings would push their advantage to seven before a few errant passes would allow NorthWood to tighten the game. With both teams directing most of their efforts to protect the paint, the Panthers were forced to take most of their shots from beyond the three-point line. They would only make one in the first half to Valley’s three.

“We took advantage of Dawson’s height pretty early but then they started helping on defense, and we weren’t making the best passes back to our shooters, and then our shooters weren’t ready,” Tippy Valley head coach Chad Patrick said.

NorthWood would start the second half by playing like the team that was ranked No. 1 in 3A for a majority of the season. The Panthers would hold Valley scoreless for the first five and a half minutes of the third quarter, while orchestrating a run that would give them the lead back for what would be the final time. Unable to get anything offensively, the Vikings would stay in the game thanks to their defense keeping them in striking distance. Scoring just five points in the quarter, Valley headed into the final period down 29-26.

“We stopped running our offense a little bit there, we had some wide open shots and just didn’t execute,” Patrick said.

Both team’s defense would make their presence felt in the final eight minutes, with neither side able to score any points for the first three and a half minutes of the fourth. The game would come down to shot making, and the Panthers would secure the final advantage. Able to use crisp passes to find open looks, NorthWood was able to convert.

Valley, on the other hand, could not. The Vikings offense worked well enough to get shooters open looks, but putting them in the net was a different story. A 32% shooting night was capitalized by four wide-open missed looks from three and two blown layup opportunities. The Vikings also missed three out of four free throws in the fourth quarter.

But even after all of that NorthWood would continue to hold the door open. The Panthers would miss two one-and-one free throw opportunities in the final two minutes, allowing Valley a few more chances. Despite the looks being there, the team was unable to convert.

“The effort from our guys tonight was amazing. They gave everything they had,” Chad Patrick said. “But against a team like that you have to take advantage of every single opportunity you get and we didn’t at the end of that game tonight.”

The Vikings graduate four seniors this season, Braden Shepherd, Perkins, Landon Walters and Damion Kohler. The team will also return its two leading scorers, juniors Tayde Kiser (nine points on Friday) and Nolan Cumberland (six points).

“We’ll miss our seniors, they’re great kids. But with what we have coming back, I think we’ll be okay,” Patrick said. “This year we beefed our schedule up a little bit and played some really good teams pretty close. Next year, we have to take the next step and start beating some of those teams, and I think we’re capable of it.”