Tippecanoe Valley's players and coaches pose for a team picture after their 44-38 championship win over John Glenn. Photo by Gary Nieter
Tippecanoe Valley's players and coaches pose for a team picture after their 44-38 championship win over John Glenn. Photo by Gary Nieter
And then there was one.

Tippecanoe Valley, the last remaining girls basketball team in the Times-Union coverage area, will continue its postseason run Saturday afternoon at Jimtown High School in one of two games that will crown regional champions.

The Lady Vikings (21-3, 9-0 Three Rivers Conference) will face the tough task of going up against 3A No. 8 Mishwaka Marian (22-5, 10-1 Northern Indiana Conference). It’s the first playoff meeting between the teams since 2000, when Tippy Valley picked up a 55-48 victory at the Plymouth sectional.  

The last time the Lady Vikings were crowned regional champions was the 2014-15 season, when the team defeated Muncie Central and Norwell, both in overtime. Tippecanoe Valley would go on to beat conference rival Rochester in the Semi-State game before eventually falling to Princeton in the state championship.

Tippy Valley has played in three regional games since making that run to the state finals, going 1-2.

Head coach Chris Kindig’s squad is back in the tournament’s second weekend for the first time since 2017 but will only have to win one game to advance to the Semi-State round thanks to the new IHSAA tournament format. The two-game Saturday has been swapped to Semi-State weekend, with regional champions finding out their quarterfinal opponents after a random draw held and broadcasted on Sunday, February 12, similar to how sectional pairings are released.

Tippy Valley’s path to the regional has been a memorable one. The team’s 21 wins are its most since the 2015-16 season and it’s 9-0 conference mark is the team’s first since 2016-17. The back-to-back TRC champs are led by a group of five seniors: Lily Ault, Corinna Stiles, Molly Moriarty, Rochester transfer Millie Scorsone and Indiana University Kokomo commit Kaydence Mellott.

Mellott, the reigning Times-Union Player of the Year, has certainly made her case to take home the award once again. The 5’8” shooting guard is Tippy Valley’s only player averaging double-digit scoring numbers this season, but her 19.5 points a game rank in the top 35 of the state. Mellott combined for 32 points in Valley’s sectional victories over Bremen (56-33) and John Glenn (44-38) while grabbing 14 rebounds over the two games.

Scorsone is the newest addition to Kindig’s side, joining the team for the playoffs after spending a majority of the season at the junior varsity level. The 6’1” center uses her size well down low and served as a defensive anchor in Valley’s two sectional games. She also played a big offensive role in Valley’s sectional championship victory, scoring 10 points. After the Lady Viking’s tournament opening win over Bremen, Kindig made sure to note how important she would be going forward.

“She’s got to get in the mix. Players are afraid to go up and take shots they know she’s going to contest. She’ll play a huge part in us making a deep run,” Kindig said.

Aside from senior leadership, Tippecanoe Valley’s greatest advantage might be its depth. The team will play nine or ten players on any given night and don’t lose much on either end when bringing in reserves. Freshman Gaby Gonzalez has seen her minutes increase significantly in recent weeks and now serves as the team’s backup point guard. Junior Macy Petersen and sophomore Carlee Snyder can come in and provide post scoring as well as tough rebounding. Junior Chesnee Miller checks in and immediately lets her opponent know by pressuring ball handlers up and down the court with incredible persistence and cardio.

“We have so many players that play their part and know their role so well,” Kindig said. “Our biggest strength is that every player on this team has bought in to what we are doing. No one player cares about themselves more than the team’s goals.”

On the other side, Mishawaka Marian comes into the regional after winning all three of their sectional games by double figures, including a 71-31 drubbing of South Bend St. Joseph in the championship game. The Knights have gone through a gauntlet of a schedule this season, facing off against 15 Class 4A teams. All five of Marian’s losses this season have come to 4A schools, including their lone conference loss to No. 1, 26-0 South Bend Washington. Valley faced just three 4A schools this season, going 1-2 against Plymouth (W), Northwestern and Warsaw.

The Knights are led by Indiana All-Star hopeful Nevaeh Foster, whose 2,233 career points are the most in Marian history, boys or girls. The MVP of the NIC averages 25 points a game. Foster is one of four Knights averaging double figures in the points column this season, along with MaKaya Porter (14.0), Aliyah Hershberger (11.4) and Shayla Alexander (11.0).

Tip off from Jimtown is scheduled for 1 p.m. The game between Valley and Marian will be followed by Fairfield taking on Highland at 4 p.m.