Unable to pick up a win in its season-opening game over Mishawaka a week ago, the Tippecanoe Valley boys basketball team got back to work at Rita Price-Simpson Court on Tuesday night hosting Fort Wayne South Side. A game that was a grueling defensive battle for the first 16 minutes opened up into an offensive showcase in the second, with South Side earning a 64-55 victory on the road.
Scoring was incredibly difficult for both teams in the early going, as after two minutes, just two points were on the scoreboard. The half-court offense of the Vikings left plenty to be desired in the game’s opening minutes, something head coach Joe Luce noticed as well. After watching his team aimlessly pass the ball around the perimeter for one too many possessions in a row, Luce called his first timeout of the game.
During the break, Luce passionately pleaded with his players to get it going, citing matchup mismatches the Vikings were not taking advantage of as much as he’d like. Following the break, Valley didn’t take long to put those corrections into effect, with point guard Davis Cowan hooking up on an alley-oop to Stephen Akase on the first possession after. The highlight-reel play would catapult the Vikings into a 6-0 run.
It was a good opening quarter for Akase, who had six points and five rebounds after eight minutes. Despite the team committing eight turnovers in the game’s opening period, the Vikings led the game by five.
Using his 6'6" height, sophomore Stephen Akase of Valley shoots over Taylon Davis of South Side in the first quarter. Photo by Gary Nieter
The second quarter was immensely entertaining, with both sides wasting no time racing up and down the court for a series of opportunities. The game was as physical as it was fast paced, but the referees allowed all sorts of contact in order to keep the action going. Despite more than a few plays resulting in groans from fans of both sides, foul calls were few and far between.
The turnover issues that plagued Valley in the first quarter didn’t go away here. The home side continued to give the ball away at an alarming rate, struggling with the press being put together by the Archers defense. After being held to just five points in the first quarter, South Side was able to take better advantage of the Viking miscues, coming back to tie the game on numerous occasions before settling for a one-point deficit at halftime.
Valley’s biggest offensive contributors in the second were Ian Cooksey, who drained a pair of three pointers, as well as Kyler Johnson, who used his big presence down low to get to the free throw line for a series of makes.
After putting together a comeback at the end of the first half, the Archers began the second with a three ball to give them their first lead since 2-0. South Side wasn’t content to stop there though, adding onto the lead and extending it to five before Luce burned another early-half timeout. As was the case in the first quarter, his team was having a tough time taking the lid off of the basket.
Once again, the break lit a fire under the Vikings, who used six quick points from Akase to make it just a one-point game once more with Valley on top. Cooksey would get in on the fun too, hitting his third long-distance shot of the night to extend the run to 9-0. South Side was quick to answer with a pair of threes of their own. A game that had long been a defensive slugfest had turned into a shootout.
After going on a long run to regain control of the game, the Vikings lost it in the final minutes of the third, the visitors were able to answer Valley’s 9-0 run with a 14-0 spurt of their own, including a back-breaking four-point play in the final seconds of the third to extend the Archer lead to double digits. Heading into the fourth, the Vikings had a lot of work to do.
Even with Cooksey starting off the fourth with yet another three, the Valley defense, which had been so stout for two and a half quarters, suddenly had no answers for the South Side offense. Within two minutes, the lead had ballooned to 15.
Midway through the fourth, the Vikings were able to string some good possessions together and began mounting a comeback, getting the lead down to nine. With two minutes remaining in the game, Cowan, who was still scoreless to this point, hit a big three pointer to get the deficit down to six. Seconds later, he’d knock down a pair of free throws to make it just a four point game.
He wasn’t done there. Cowan would steal the ensuing inbounds pass and lay it up immediately afterwards to cut the lead down to two after a Reggie-Milleresque seven points in less than 20 seconds. The game remained a one-possession affair until the final minute, when a big and-one opportunity for South Side got the lead back up to six.
That would lead to the beginning of the end for the Vikings. Valley was unable to get a shot to fall on its next two possessions, burning too much clock in the process. The Archers were able to control the ball and make their free throws at a high enough percentage to come away with the victory.
Cooksey finished with a team-high 19 points for Valley to go with six rebounds. Akase finished with a double-double, 18 points and 13 rebounds. Cowan finished with seven points while Kyler Johnson added six and a block.
The Vikings (0-2) will try to pick up their first win of the season on Saturday at home against Bremen.