SYRACUSE – The Tippecanoe Valley Vikings opened Class 3A Sectional 21 action last night by converting two big fourth quarter defensive plays into baskets and getting big contributions from two players off the bench.

The final period burst resulted in a 60-55 win ending the West Noble Chargers’ (14-9) season at Wawasee’s hardwood Teepee.

The Vikings finished the third period with a 5-0 run to trail the Chargers 39-37, then carried their momentum into the final stanza outscoring West Noble 23-16 to move on top and secure the victory. Valley head coach Chad Patrick felt the evening was his squad’s most complete performance since their Feb 12 win over Wabash.

“That’s the most complete game we played since Wabash,” Patrick said. “It was a great team win. Cooper Walls didn’t score but he gave us a great second half. He didn’t do anything fancy, he didn’t turn it over, and he played a great game. I was able to use him more tonight since we don’t have to worry about JV quarters anymore, so I stuck with him because he was playing great.”

Walls, a junior guard, played solid defense throughout the second half, and helped valley move the ball around for a very balanced attack. Four Viking cagers finished with double-figure scoring.

The two Vikings’ key defensive plays triggering a 10-4 run came while Valley trailed 41-40 in the fourth frame.

Senior Dawson Perkins, at 6-foot-7 a disrupter of opponents’ shots in the lane throughout the season, swatted one of his 10 blocked shots on the evening then raced down court to snag a perfect feed from Braden Shepherd for a reverse layup to give Valley a 42-41 lead with 5:38 remaining in the contest.

“We’ve been working on having him go straight up instead of swatting down like he was doing later in the game,” Patrick said. “Dawson played his heart out tonight. He changed the game in the lane so much they were almost afraid to go int the lane against him.”

Perkins’ 10 blocked shots were part of a triple double including 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Tayde Kiser’s steal and layup, the other key defensive play, put the Vikings up 48-43 before another Perkins bucket bookended the run to give Valley its biggest lead of the evening 50-43 near the game’s four-minute mark.

The Chargers’ 6’4” junior guard Austin Cripe, the game’s leading scorer with 30 points, hit two free throws to bring West Noble within two points 50-48 when Valley’s Dominick Welk, another key contributor off the bench, hit two clutch free throws with 2:49 to push Valley ahead 52-48.

Welk, a 6’4” junior also assured the Vikings continued to play solid defense after Perkins was seated with his fourth foul.

6’5” sophomore, Bradyn Barth scored an inside basket for West Noble followed by Cripe’s conversion of a three-point play following a foul to regain the lead 53-52. Barth finished with 12 points in the Charges’ loss.

Shepherd hit two go-ahead free throws to keep Valley ahead for good at the 2:04 mark, then  sandwiched Nolan Cumberland’s ensuring four freebies with his team-leading 19th and 20th points to close out the 60-55 win.

Free-throw shooting (24 for 26) contributed significantly to the Vikings’ advance to the sectional semifinal Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the NorthWood Panthers (22-2). The Wawasee Warriors (8-14) will open Friday’s semi-final action in their home gym against the Lakeland Lakers (5-17) at 6 p.m.

Cumberland added 14 points and Kiser added 13 for the victors.

The Vikings (14-9) celebrated briefly last night before they look at film later today from their 55-45 loss (Feb 15) to NorthWood.

“We had great contributions from everybody tonight…,” Patrick said. “We’ll get back at it… we played (NorthWood) tough but playing them tough doesn’t guarantee a win. We’ll have a look at the film to see what we have to do.”