SOUTH WHITLEY — The physically and emotionally draining rivalry that exists between Tippecanoe Valley and Whitko was at its best Saturday night.
The Lady Vikings struggled early but managed to outwit, outlast and outplay their rival en
route to a well-deserved 55-45 victory in South Whitley.
Fans in attendance knew they were in for a treat after a thrilling first quarter that was played like a chess match, a very fast chess match. Valley and Whitko exchanged baskets for most of the quarter before a Valley turnover led to a three-point basket from Whitko’s Melanie Kelsey late in the quarter. Kelsey’s shot was the only three made from either squad all night and helped give her team a 13-8 lead going into the second quarter. The senior would finish with nine points on the night.
The second quarter was littered with fouls and bad free throw shooting from both teams.
Whitko head coach Brandon Bradley expressed his frustration with his team’s free throw
shooting in a post game interview.
“We’re going to spend an awful lot of time on free throws simply because we missed 13
tonight. That’s not going to cut it,” coach Bradley stated.
Whitko finished the night making just 65 percent of its free throws, going 24-37.
Despite also missing free throws, Valley was able to take advantage of six Lady Wildcat
turnovers in the quarter. The Lady Vikings outscored Whitko 17-14 in the second quarter.
Part of the scoring effort was led by Valley’s Taylor Trippiedi who hit a buzzer-beating shot to cut Whitko’s lead to two points. Trippiedi would finish her night with 14 points. Though trailing at half, momentum had clearly shifted in favor of the Lady Vikings.
Valley continued to swing the momentum after halftime by getting more physical and forcing Whitko into bad shots. Fouls would again become a factor for both teams but once again it was the Lady Vikings that handled the situations better. After three quarters the visitors had taken a six-point lead at 40-34.
In the fourth Valley had a lot of chances to put the game away, but Whitko was able to make plays to stay in striking distance that kept Valley on its heels. One reason the Lady Vikings struggled to get a sizeable lead late in the game was free throws. Valley missed early and often from the charity stripe and carried the woes into the fourth quarter. As frustrated as Whitko’s Bradley was, Valley head coach Chris Kindig was just as upset with his team’s performance from the line.
“When you shoot 13-29 from the line, a lot of nights you’re going to lose. We’re going to
have to go back to the drawing board on that,” Kindig said.
The coach would continue, “We spend a lot of time in practice on free throws, but a game like tonight could have easily been turned on free throw shooting. We could’ve probably won by 16 or 18 had we hit even 50 percent or so from the line.”
Despite several efforts to close the gap from Whitko in the fourth, turnovers and missed
opportunities would end up being too much to overcome for the home team.
After the game, a disappointed Bradley talked about the pressures of the rivalry taking a toll on his team.
“For nine games we’ve been solid, we win together, we lose together,” Bradley said. “I think this has just turned into a very big rivalry; the game last year was very physical. I think each one of us wanted to win so badly and we don’t know how to do that yet. We tried so hard that when something failed, we tried to go after it instead of just playing through it.”
The Wildcat team will look to rebound from Saturday’s emotionally draining loss when they travel to play Adams Central, a team that Bradley has some history with. Before coming to Whitko, Bradley paced the sidelines at South Adams, one of Central’s biggest rivals. When asked what his team can expect from the road trip Bradley replied, “It’s a very old and rustic gym and it gets loud in there. They are a very proud fan base and it will be tough for us.” The game will start at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Thursday. Whitko is now 3-7 on the year and 1-2 in Three Rivers Conference play.
As for coach Kindig and Valley, they now sit at 4-6 and 2-1 in conference play, and they
couldn’t be happier.
“Give Whitko credit, they played hard. But our focus tonight was on us and this is a great win for our girls,” Kindig happily stated. “This is a big road win for us and this is just a big win from a confidence stand point,” the coach continued.
A stat that played in large favor for the Lady Vikings tonight was rebounds. “We had a size
advantage tonight and that really helped us out and we got a lot of rebounds,” said Kindig.
How many rebounds did Valley tally? The ladies pulled down a whopping 53 boards in just
32 minutes of play. The team will look to continue that success on Thursday when they travel to North Judson to take on the Blue Jays with tip off set for 7:00 p.m.
In junior varsity play the Lady Vikings JV beat the Lady Wildcats JV 23-17. Madison Strong
from Valley and Avaree Freel of Whitko both led their teams in scoring with eight points a