Wawasee’s Olivia Horn (left) and Valley’s Corinna Stiles (right) battle it out for possession in Tippecanoe Valley’s 47-35 win over Wawasee Tuesday night. Photos by Gary Nieter
Wawasee’s Olivia Horn (left) and Valley’s Corinna Stiles (right) battle it out for possession in Tippecanoe Valley’s 47-35 win over Wawasee Tuesday night. Photos by Gary Nieter
It didn’t come easy, but the Tippecanoe Valley Lady Vikings made it four wins in a row Tuesday night, defeating Wawasee 47-35 at the Hardwood Teepee. After taking a brief lead just seconds into the game, Valley didn’t lead again until midway through the third quarter. The Lady Vikings did not trail again.

It was a tough task for Tippy Valley, as star player Kaydence Mellott missed the game due to illness. While her presence would be missed, players like Gaby Gonzalez (nine points), Kelsey Cox (eight points, 12 rebounds) and Lily Ault (10 points) stepped up in her absence to push the team forward to victory.

“We were pretty tight in the first half. When you’re missing a star player, everyone starts thinking they have to do it themselves,” Tippy Valley head coach Chris Kindig said. “I thought we played much more as a team in the second half which is great to see.”

The first few minutes of the opening quarter featured tons of action but not a whole lot of scoring, as both sides raced down the court trading offensive possessions rather quickly. Though both sides had no issues setting up their offense and getting good looks, each team struggled to put the ball in the hoop. Mellott’s replacement in the starting lineup, Chesnee Miller was one of Tippy Valley’s few bright spots in the opening eight minutes, scoring four of the team’s six points.

For the home team, the lack of scoring was just about the only thing that didn’t go right to start off the game. The Warriors rattled the visitors with lockdown defense, often forcing turnovers or a rushed shot attempt. Wasting no time getting their offense together, Wawasee raced down the court to the other end and was often rewarded for doing so with wide open shots. While the Warriors didn’t convert on all of them, they did so enough to lead by five points after eight minutes of action.

 Wawasee’s Swiss Army Knife Olivia Horn picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter after scoring five of her team’s first seven points. She returned to start the second quarter and made an immediate impact by blocking the first shot taken in her vicinity. Despite the foul trouble limiting her minutes, Horn led her team with eleven points.

As the second quarter went on, the lid remained on each side’s basket, with few baskets being made over the course of the second period. Tippecanoe Valley fared better during this time, stepping up on defense and hitting a few shots to tie the game with three minutes left in the half.

“I told the players before the game that this was one we might have to win on the defensive end,” Kindig said. “They responded really well.”

But the Warriors had an answer. Sophomore Molly Beer came up huge for her team by dominating the offensive glass and giving Wawasee plenty of shot opportunities. The hard work of Beer down low combined with some savvy defending from Mackenzie Hackleman (four steals in the first half) were enough for the home side to take a two-point lead into halftime.  

A good start to the second half saw Wawasee extend its lead to six points. From that point on, the game flipped on its head. Back-to-back threes from Valley’s Molly Moriarty and Lily Ault tied the game up, and a layup by Macy Petersen on the next possession would give the Lady Vikings their first lead since 2-0.

The eruption of the Valley offense awoke something in the home team as well. Suddenly, the shots started to fall. Both sides took turns trading baskets for what felt like five or six possessions in a row. With things tightening up, it was the visitors who would seize the opportunity near the end of the third quarter. A string of solid defensive stands were followed by quick Lady Viking buckets. Before long, it had turned into a 6-0 run, giving the visitors some separation as the two sides approached the final eight minutes. A massive adjustment from Kindig that paid dividends was playing Cox and fellow center Carlee Snyder at the same time. With those two on the court, the Wawasee rebounding advantage had disappeared.

“We figured if we don’t have the perimeter shooting we usually do, let’s see what we can get done on the block,” Kindig said. “They did a great job of making themselves available down low and closing out possessions on the boards.”

To say the final quarter was frantic would be doing it a disservice. For large portions of the period, the ball was on the floor with players fighting over it more often than it was possessed. Having found successes, the Lady Vikings put the pedal to the metal and pounced on their opponent. Before long, the Valley lead had been extended to double digits. In the final minute, the Warriors attempted to extend the game by fouling, sending Gonzalez to the line a handful of times. The freshman kept her cool and converted her charity stripe opportunities to ice the game.

“We’ve been trying to work her into the lineup more and more as the season has gone along. She’s one of our best players handling the ball and seeing the floor. We don’t lose anything defensively with her on the court either. I think she’s going to be a big factor for us going forward,” Kindig said.

Wawasee (11-11) wraps up the regular season at .500 and will travel to Fairfield Tuesday to open up sectional play against NorthWood. Tippecanoe Valley (18-3) plays its final regular season game Thursday against Manchester.

“We want to keep our momentum going and I want us to play well Thursday,” Kindig said. “I’d like to get some confidence back in a couple of our players.”