While it wasn’t the prettiest game at times, the Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball team continued its winning ways on Tuesday night, outlasting NorthWood 46-38 in overtime on the road. Some tough defense and timely free throw shooting paved the way for the Lady Vikings, who are now 5-0 this winter.
It was clear from the game’s opening moments that defense would be on the menu in Nappanee. On the game’s first play, Valley’s defensive superstar Chesnee Miller locked up the NorthWood point guard and earned a five-second call. This play would set the tone for what would turn into a very physical and close battle between the two teams.
Miller wasn’t the only defender that shined in the game’s opening minutes for the Lady Vikings. It truly was a team effort for Valley, which made it nearly impossible for the Lady Panthers to cross midcourt, let alone get a shot off. The team’s press in the opening minutes was both frustrating and effective, but also came with some drawbacks. Tippy Valley was extremely aggressive to begin the game, which led to some early foul trouble. The team’s leading scorer, Ava Egolf, picked up three fouls in the first minute and a half of action.
Despite the strong defensive effort from the visitors, Valley struggled themselves to get the ball in the basket, with not much scoring taking place in the first quarter and throughout the game. With the constant fouling by both teams, pace was nearly nonexistent, leading to some ugly basketball being played. Even with the early struggles, the Lady Vikings were able to get it going in the second half of the first quarter, going on a quick 6-0 to take their first lead of the game, 9-6, after a quarter.
The game’s second period was one Valley will try to move past as quickly as possible. The offensive successes that had been discovered at the end of the first had disappeared, leading to a long drought for the Lady Vikings that spanned nearly the entire second quarter. It seemed as if every offensive possession for the visitors ended with a turnover, leaving NorthWood in striking distance. Luckily for Valley, the team’s defense stayed strong and made up for the offensive woes. In spite of only scoring two points in the first seven minutes of the quarter (a free throw made by Gaby Gonzalez and Ava Smith), it remained a one-possession game.
Senior Ava Smith of Valley feels the pressure defense of NorthWood's Haylee Heflin during Tuesday night's game at NorthWood. Photo by Gary Nieter
Tippecanoe Valley finally got its first field goal of the second period to go with just a minute remaining in the half, a three from Gonzalez. It would be enough to tie the game up heading into the third.
The scoring woes would continue after the halftime break for the Lady Vikings. The team didn’t get its first points in the second half until after three minutes had gone by. Despite this, Valley remained ahead as time continued to wind down, albeit by just a point. While the points remained at premium, both teams had become more reserved in their defense, leading to far less fouls and a much better pace. The two sides were beginning to find it.
The last two minutes of the third were crucial for the Lady Vikings. Thanks to some timely free throw shooting by Miller and shot-making by Gonzalez and Smith, Valley was able to extend its lead to four, the largest for either side up to this point. After scoring just 14 points in the first half, the visitors were able to score 12 in the third to get back in front.
The already tough Valley defense kicked it up another notch in the fourth, with Miller leading the charge. A couple of steals for the senior were enough to kickstart her team, which continued suffocating the Lady Panthers across the court. Even with the defense continuing to shine, the lead had shrunk down to just three. Like the second quarter, Valley was having a hard time getting the lid off of the basket in the fourth.
With four minutes left in the game, it grew to five after a long jumper from Miller. A possession later, Gonzalez sunk two clutch free throws to extend it to seven. That would be as large as it got, as NorthWood had one last run in them. With two minutes left in the game the Lady Panthers hit a three to cut the lead to just two and had all momentum on their side. Seconds later, the game was tied.
With a minute left in the game, NorthWood got back on top with a layup. The Lady Vikings had a good chance to equalize on their next possession, but the heavily contested layup by Smith rimmed out. Now needing a stop, the visitors got a huge one in the form of a strip steal by Miller, who went all the way and tied the game up on a layup. After another turnover by the Lady Panthers, Valley had one more shot with seconds left to win the game. A runner by Gonzalez would come up just short, sending the game to overtime.
A minute into OT, Gonzalez would make up for her last-second miss with a pair of clutch free throws to put her team back on top. On the next possession, Smith would sink two more to double the lead. A three by NorthWood seconds later would make it a one-point game with two minutes to go. Now with a minute left, Smith hit perhaps the biggest shot of the game, a three to make it a four-point contest. After a crucial steal by the Valley defense, Macy Petersen hit two more big free throws to extend the lead to six and ice the game.
Gonzalez led the team with 15 points and also added three steals. Smith got into double figures as well, finishing with eleven. Miller scored eight and added four steals while Petersen finished with eight points.
The Lady Vikings will stay on the road for their next contest, a game on Wednesday against Western.