AKRON – Tippecanoe Valley boys basketball coach Bill Patrick, in his normal selfless style, called it “another” win Friday night.
No disrespect to the coach, but this was not just another win.
Not just a normal win either.
Just in the same way that there’s nothing normal about the incredible success Patrick has achieved in his legendary, Hall of Fame coaching career for more than four decades.
The Vikings, for the record, posted a 57-40 win Friday night over Fairfield in the opening round of their own Winning Edge Holiday Tournament.
The real story, however, even as much as their coach didn’t want it to be was the historic win for Patrick. The old-school mentor became just the fifth boys coach in the illustrious history of basketball in the Hoosier State to win his 700th game.
Patrick, now 700-275 in his 44th season on the sidelines, joins some very select company. The only other men ever to win 700 high school basketball games are Jack Butcher (806), Howard Sharp (723), Pat Rady (716) and Bill Stearman (714). Rady, the coach at Cloverdale, is the only one besides Patrick who is still active. He is in his 49th season overall.
“The big thing is that we get to play in the championship game Saturday night,” said Patrick. “We wanted to win tonight and play in the championship game. That’s the big accomplishment.”
Patrick did offer a few words to the crowd in a post game interview with broadcaster Rita Price over the P.A. system. There was a congratulatory cake to honor the coach, who will be presented with a plaque for his historic win at a home game sometime in January.
But, as usual, it took quite a bit of prodding in the post game to get the always-humble Patrick to put into words what No. 700 means to him.
“It means I’ve had a lot of good players and good coaches,” said Patrick. “You don’t win 700 by yourself. I’ve had a lot of help. Obviously, it’s something that doesn’t happen very often. You have to have good health and enjoy what your’e doing and I have.
“Reaching 500 wins to me was the big milestone. Anything after that is just additional.”
Patrick spent his first 29 seasons coaching in the Whitko School Corporation, including 24 at Whitko High School. The Sidney High School graduate is now 222-95 in his 15th season at Valley.
The Vikings were all about the number seven Friday night. The hosts improved to 7-1 with their seventh straight win to give their coach No. 700.
The hosts, who improved to 5-0 at home this season, never trailed in the contest.
Valley put together several scoring spurts to turn back the Falcons, who fall to 3-4. The hosts used a 9-0 run in the opening quarter to lead 16-9 after it. The Vikings led 29-21 at intermission, led by eight points from Tanner Andrews.
The hosts took control of the game with an 11-0 run to open the second half. Nick Kindig, who led Valley with 12 points, got hot in the stretch with three jumpers as the Vikings built a 40-21 advantage. Valley led 41-27 after the third period and opened the final stanza with a 6-0 run to stretch their lead to 20 points.
“I didn’t think we played very well at all in the first half,” Patrick said. “We did not play well together on offense or defense. We played better in the second half. Nick was moving a little more. They came out in a box-and-one on him to start the game and it took a while for us to adjust.”
The Vikings, understandably so, were a little distracted Friday night. Three members of the team, Alex Thacker, Logan Britton and Jarred Littlejohn were involved in a one-vehicle accident late Friday morning after leaving a shoot around at the high school, which was not in session due to Christmas break. Both Britton, a stater, and Littlejohn played Friday night, but Thacker was in a Fort Wayne hospital due to a concussion and other injuries suffered in the slide off.
“It was a tough day for our kids,” said Patrick, who asked for fans to pray for Thacker, who is expected to be okay, in his post game remarks to the Valley crowd.
Andrews had 11 points and Jacob Ritchey nine for the Vikings in the victory. The hosts hit 22-of-38 shots from the field and held Fairfield to a 13-of-33 shooting effort with 19 turnovers.
Brad Lantz led the Falcons with 13 points. Garrett Scott and Marcus Rodes each had nine for Fairfield.
Valley, which has not beaten a team with a winning record this season, will face a huge test in Saturday night’s finale. The hosts meet an undefeated NorthWood team, following the 6 p.m. consolation game between Fairfield (3-4) and Rochester (1-6).
NorthWood, ranked No. 11 in Class 3-A, routed Rochester 77-45 in the opener Friday night. Zach Zurcher, a 6-5 junior, poured in 34 points as the Panthers improved to 6-0. Valley beat NorthWood 70-68 in double overtime in a first-round contest in the Winning Edge Holiday Tourney last year before the Panthers got revenge with a 40-35 sectional win.
“No offense to any of the teams we’ve played, but we haven’t played anyone like NorthWood,” said Patrick. “They are big, strong, athletic. They’re the best team in the area and one of the top 3-4 teams in 3-A in the state. We’ve played well in spurts this year, but we better put together 32 minutes Saturday.
“We’ll get a chance to find out where we are Saturday night.”
For now though, it was all about where coach Patrick was Friday night, regardless of his downplaying the moment.
The Hall of Famer is right in the history books for Hoosier hoops.
Right where he belongs too.