A new era of Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball began with a win on Thursday night, as the Lady Vikings earned a season-opening victory over future conference rival Bremen 54-39.
It was a strong statement for Valley, who entered this season having graduated five seniors last year, including two-time defending Times-Union Player of the Year Kaydence Mellott. On Thursday night, it was a team effort that paved the way for the home side.
“It’s going to need to be that way every night,” Tippecanoe Valley head coach Chris Kindig said after the game. “We had three players in double figures tonight and the next game it might be a different three. We’re eight or nine players deep and there isn’t much of a skill gap between all of them. These girls know they have to go out there and make things happen because someone else can come in at any point.”
The Lady Vikings began the game struggling to get the lid off of the basket, as scoring was very hard to come by in the opening minutes. Outside of a few free throws made by one of the five Lady Viking seniors, Kelsey Cox, Valley was unable to get anything to go from the field.
That’s not to say the Lady Lions were able to take advantage of this sluggish start. The Lady Vikings more than made up for their early offensive struggles on the defensive side of the floor, making life incredibly difficult for the Bremen ball handlers. Regardless of a made basket or not, Valley did its best to press as much as possible, which ended up forcing a plethora of mistakes in the open court by the Lady Lions. This kept the game extremely close for the first few minutes.
“Our emphasis is that our defense is constant. We want to hold teams to 36 points a game,” Kindig said. “We’re trying to establish that as the mindset. I’m okay with winning games 40-35.”
Tippecanoe Valley senior Macy Petersen elevates for a shot over Bremen's Mikayla Shively during the first quarter. Photo by Gary Nieter
Three minutes into the game, the Lady Vikings finally got their first shot to fall, a layup by Cox. The senior center was extremely busy in the opening minutes, scoring the first seven points of the game for Valley. Fellow senior Macy Petersen was the first player off of the bench for the Lady Vikings and made an immediate impact, scoring five quick points at the end of the first quarter. The burst from Petersen was exactly what the home side needed, and combined with the still-suffocating defense, was enough to kickstart a run. Valley was able to extend its lead to double figures in the final minute of the first.
While the lead didn’t shrink much in the second, foul trouble for the Lady Vikings prevented the lead from extending any further. Three different Valley players picked up two or more fouls in the first half, including top defender Chesnee Miller, fresh off of an appearance at the IHSAA Cross Country state finals.
In spite of this, Valley was able to use its strong defense to stay in front, even as the scoring began to slow down once more. At the half, the Lady Vikings went into the locker room with a 12-point advantage.
Cox picked up four quick points in the first two minutes of the third to become the first player in the game to reach double-digits. It was just the beginning of what would turn into a 10-0 run that spanned the first five and a half minutes of the half for Valley. Warsaw transfer Ava Egolf made her first impact in a Valley uniform during this stretch as well, coming away with a pair of steals and easy layups while helping the lead grow over 20.
“I thought she started off the game a little nervous. She was trying hard to get into the flow,” Kindig said. “Honestly, I think you’re going to see more out of her. She’s the type of player that can do anything for you on the court and she plays so hard. Once we get her more comfortable she’s going to be a big addition.”
Bremen would not go quietly into the good night. The Lady Lions were able to take the haymaker from Valley and answer with one of their own, scoring seven quick points to trim the lead back down to 15, forcing Kindig to call a timeout.
That would be as close as Bremen would get in the third, as Valley was able to right the ship. Three third quarter steals by Miller would keep the Lady Lions off of the scoreboard, while five quick points by sophomore Gaby Gonzalez extended the lead to above 20 once more, where it would sit as the fourth quarter began.
Bremen was able to once again trim away at the lead in the final eight minutes, getting back to within 17 once again, but they would get no further. The next few minutes were relatively quiet, with the lead hanging around that 17-20 range and not much happening. Cox would foul out with five minutes left in the game, ending her evening with eleven points, six rebounds and five steals.
With four minutes left in the game, a Bremen three cut the lead down to 15. On the following possession, the Lady Vikings would begin to milk the clock by passing the ball around the perimeter. With no shot clock to stop them, Valley was able to burn over a minute off of the quickly depleting clock. Eventually, the long possession would turn into free throw attempts for Egolf. She would become the second Lady Viking to reach 10 points, finishing with a team-leading 13 to go with her team-high seven rebounds. In the game’s final minute, Petersen became the third.
Gonzalez finished with nine points, while Carlee Snyder added four to round out the top five scorers for Valley. Miller had three points and four steals.
The Lady Vikings will remain at home for their next game, an afternoon contest on Saturday against St. Joseph.
“We have some teams on our schedule that are top 20 teams in different divisions. We can’t play for a conference title this season but the goal is not to have a down game,” Kindig said. “We’re hoping this road prepares us for February so that we’re playing our best ball when it matters."