NAPPANEE — Postseason glory ended in starkly different fashions Tuesday night for two local girls basketball teams at the NorthWood Girls Basketball Sectional.
Wawasee trailed just seven seconds into the first game and never recovered in a 53-29 loss to NorthWood while Tippecanoe Valley overcame a 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter but fell a basket short in a 60-58 season-ender to West Noble.
NorthWood Just Too Strong
A three-point basket seven seconds into the game by Jordyn Frantz was just the start of a complete blitzing by the Panthers against the overmatched Warriors. NorthWood wouldn’t let up, jumping out to a 16-3 lead after the first quarter and holding Wawasee to just nine points in the first half.
During a 90-second stretch in the first quarter, Frantz herself had three blocks and a steal, almost single-handedly commanding the game’s pace.
Frantz finished the night with 15 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and four steals while teammate Morgan Olson was 8-12 from the field, scoring 20 points while pulling down 15 rebounds. As a team, NorthWood outrebounded Wawasee 37-24 and had 12 on the offensive end, which converted into 15 second-chance points.
“That’s a state contender team right there,” Wawasee head coach Kem Zolman said. “We’ve been there and know what that looks like. We just gave it our best. I thought our girls stuck to the game plan really nice, but it just wears you down after a while.
“Our bugaboo all year long has been rebounding. We just couldn’t stick the rebound and stay with it, they kept moving, we stayed still. What you go down with has been our bugaboo all year.”
Wawasee’s KiLee Knafel concluded her career in Syracuse with 19 points and nine boards. The work on Knafel by NorthWood was the focal point of NorthWood head coach Steve Neff, who was still impressed with Knafel’s work despite the constant attention by his defense.
“What a career Knafel had,” said Neff. “She is a player. I think IUSB got a steal in her. We were all over her most of the time and she kept her composure.”
Coach Zolman continued the high praise for Wawasee second-leading scorer in school history, as well as classmates Lexy Blunk and Cassie Martinez.
“I told the seniors their best days are ahead of them,” Zolman said of his trio of soon-to-be-graduates. “KiLee is going to be playing at another level. Lexy is going to play at another level in soccer, and Cassie is going to another level in her education, she has some lofty goals in that.
“They will look back on this and say, ‘Man, that was cool. That was a lot of fun.’ But tonight, good grief. When you are a foot taller and a barbell or two stronger at every position, it’s pretty tough. But my hats go off to them, they are a good team.”
Wawasee concludes its season 10-11 while NorthWood (20-3) will host Fairfield (13-8) in the first semi-final Friday night, tip-off at 6 p.m.
West Noble Holds On
Tippecanoe Valley showed a lot of fight against West Noble, but just ran out of time.
“Unfortunately for us, we had 27 turnovers and they had 12, that was the key stat of the game,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Chris Kindig. “There were times when I felt like we rushed things and made bad decisions on the offensive end about where to throw the basketball.”
Trailing 55-44 with less than three minutes to go in the game, Cara Hoffman got red hot for Valley. The junior guard scored Tippy’s next eight points to pull the Vikings within six at 58-52. Caylie Teel then blocked Haley Richardson’s next shot attempt and raced all the way down the court for a layup to pull Valley within four.
A crucial turnover by Valley after it held West Noble to a missed three did have Teel hit a running jumper later to cut the lead to 58-56. But a pair of free throws by West Noble’s Kelsie Peterson proved the difference. Teel would hit another jumper late, but time just ran out.
“I really liked our effort in the last three or four minutes,” Kindig said. “We were down 10-12 points and we had a shot at the buzzer down two. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that sense of urgency we needed to have early in the game.
“It was only a two-point game at halftime. Give West Noble credit. The Peterson girl is a really good player. I thought we did a reasonable job on Richardson. She had 13 points. They have a nice one-two punch. You can stop one of them but you can’t stop both of them.”
Peterson led all scorers with 25 points and hauled in eight rebounds while dishing a pair of assists and swiping seven Valley passes. Richardson, a Ball State recruit, had 13 points and six boards.
Hoffman led Valley (7-13) with 20 points but coughed up the ball nine times. Kelsey Ball added eight points and 14 rebounds, Caylie Teel chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds, and Courtney Newsome, one of three Valley seniors, finished her final game with seven points and seven rebounds.
“I think our future is going to be ahead of us,” Kindig said. “I look for the girls to improve over the summer. I really like what we have coming back, I really do. I think we should be a solid team next year.”
West Noble (15-7) will prepare for Friday’s second game, which it will face Northeast Corner Conference foe Lakeland (5-15). The Chargers beat the Lakers by 28 in the season’s first meeting on Jan. 4.
Friday night’s winners will meet Saturday night for the sectional championship. NorthWood has won 22 sectional titles in its illustrious history, and the win Tuesday night pulled Neff into a tie with Donna Cheatham of Scottsburg in career wins with 632, the most all-time in Indiana girls basketball history.
Fairfield have two sectional titles to its résumé, but both came in class 2A while Lakeland have three, but none since 1996. West Noble have only won one sectional title, dating all the way back to 1988.