The Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball team celebrates their regional championship win over Mishawaka Marian by hoisting their newest trophy in the air. Tippy Valley defeated Marian 67-54 for the second regional title in school history. Photos by Gary Nieter
The Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball team celebrates their regional championship win over Mishawaka Marian by hoisting their newest trophy in the air. Tippy Valley defeated Marian 67-54 for the second regional title in school history. Photos by Gary Nieter
All season long, Tippecanoe Valley head coach Chris Kindig has said that his team’s biggest strengths are their depth and players’ willingness to buy into their roles.

Both were on full display Saturday afternoon.

The Lady Vikings (22-3) overcame a slow start and played perhaps their best basketball of the season so far to earn a stunning 67-54 win over Mishawaka Marian at 3A Regional 9 at Jimtown. The regional championship is Valley’s second in school history, the first coming in 2015 when the team made a run to the state championship game.

Turnovers, perhaps Valley’s Achilles heel during the first few games of their tournament run, played a big factor in the deficit the team faced after the first few minutes. The Lady Vikings turned it over four times on their first four possessions and the Knights were able to take advantage to the tune of a 6-0 start. The transition game of Mishawaka Marian killed Tippy Valley early on, as it seemed like the visitors on the scoreboard were able to run the length of the court for easy buckets before the Lady Vikings could get back.

“We came out a little tight,” Kindig said. “But we have five seniors. They know how to settle down. We call timeout and Lily Ault hits a three coming out of it to take the lid off of the basket. We start thinking we can hang; we can play with these girls.”

Midway through the first, Kindig made the decision to bring Chesnee Miller and Scorsone off of the bench. The move produced immediate results as Miller began a lockdown pursuit of Marian’s leading scorer Nevaeh Foster. Foster, a 25 point per game scorer, scored eight quick points in the first quarter but was held to just two the rest of the contest with Miller as her primary defender.

“She is our designated defensive star. She can change the game defensively,” Kindig said. “We wanted to make Foster get rid of the ball as quickly as we could. We felt like if someone was going to beat us, it was going to have to be their post players. We figured if we could get the ball out of her hands, we’d take our chances.

The junior guard had an incredible sequence to end the first quarter, forcing a 5-second call on Foster on one end before burying a long jumper with three seconds left to shrink the deficit to two. It was just a taste of what was to come, as Miller got it done on both ends all afternoon long. Along with her lockdown perimeter defense, Miller contributed eight points and five rebounds.

“I came in my freshman year and knew shooting wasn’t my forte. I had to find other ways to contribute,” Miller said while holding the team’s newest trophy after the game. “I knew coming in that I had to play the best game I’ve ever played to help us get the win. This is the best moment of my life.”

Trailing by two going into the second quarter, the substitution of Scorsone began to pay off in a major way. The 6’1” senior center was able to position herself down low with ease and with a little help from some great entry passes, thrived. The Rochester transfer started getting the ball on almost every possession in the quarter and made the most of each chance, putting up easy points in a hurry. Scorsone ended her afternoon with 14 points and six boards.

“I waited for this moment. All season long I worked my butt off to get here,” Scorsone said after cutting down her piece of the net. “They couldn’t stop the high-low pass my teammates were sending my way and I’m happy I was able to make them pay.”

“We definitely thought going into the game that that was an area we could hurt them badly in,” Kindig said. “Millie did a great job positioning herself down low and finishing plays.”

The Lady Vikings also found a ton of success at the free throw line. With the Knights committing their seventh team foul with a minute left in the first and their tenth with four minutes left in the second, Tippy Valley was able to go ahead and stay there for the rest of the first half with success at the charity stripe. Even with the momentum starting to turn in favor of the Lady Vikings, Marian was able to string together some good possessions to end the half. It was an electric sequence, as the ball barely touched the court as each team used some pretty passing to end the first half on a scoring frenzy.

With a four-point lead going into the third quarter, Valley’s contributions were coming from everywhere. Freshman point guard Gaby Gonzalez scored six points and played tough defense off of the bench. Senior guard Molly Moriarty had a very efficient night shooting the ball, beating her primary defender off the dribble multiple times and getting easy layups on her way to scoring eleven.

The Lady Vikings’ leading scorer Kaydence Mellott also got it going after a slow start. The Indiana University Kokomo commit made three three-pointers as well as more than a handful of tough, contested shots at the rim to end up with 18 points.

“This was one of our biggest goals coming into the season. This feels amazing,” Mellott said with a smile on her face after the final buzzer. “I was a little nervous at the beginning of the game, letting things get into my head. But I realized I just needed to do what I do well. We all did. I’m so proud of this team.”

The total team effort was too much for the Knights to overcome, as the Tippecanoe Valley unit put it all together to the tune of a 16-5 run that closed out the third quarter and gave the Lady Vikings a double-digit lead going into the fourth. In the final period, possessions stretched a little longer as players started to realize what was happening. Marian was able to make a few shots down the stretch but never got within single digits again.

“I thought we had a quickness advantage on them that we were able to exploit pretty well,” Kindig said. “Especially after they got into some foul trouble, we thought we could be aggressive and take advantage of it. We got it to the right players at the right time. It was really nice to see.”

When the final buzzer sounded, players and students wasted no time creating a dogpile at center court.

Tippecanoe Valley will play their first Semi-State game Saturday, February 18, against Fairfield at LaPorte at 1 p.m. ET, 12 p.m. local. With a win there, the Lady Vikings will take on the winner of undefeated Twin Lakes and Hamilton Heights for a spot in the state championship game.