SYRACUSE — Needing a spark, the Tippecanoe Valley Vikings didn’t need to look any further than Tanner Andrews.
The physical presence for the Vikings hassled Wawasee inside the paint all night, recording a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds as Tippecanoe Valley knocked the host Warriors from the 3A sectional with a 65-42 victory Tuesday night.
Wawasee had absolutely no answer for Andrews’ power as the Valley junior hit eight of 12 shots. A pair of powerful moves in the lane in the fourth quarter put exclamation points on Valley’s 18th win of the season, which propels the team to the Wawasee Sectional semi-finals Friday night to face Lakeland (6-15) in the second game of the night.
When Andrews wasn’t making himself known inside, Alex Thacker was hitting big shots from the perimeter. With Wawasee’s attention paid to an ailing Nick Kindig, who is averaging near 20 points per game this season, Thacker took the open looks and buried a pair of huge threes in the third quarter.
With Wawasee trailing 31-22 in the third quarter and looking poised to keep the game close, Thacker hit a pair of big threes to push Valley back up 36-22. Wawasee would get not closer in the contest. Thacker ended with 12 points, helping make up for the four points Kindig was only able to muster.
“Those were two big threes,” Tippecanoe Valley head coach Bill Patrick said. “We spread them out a little bit and we were able to get the ball inside with a couple easy baskets after that. Thacker did a better job of waiting.
“We kind of got in a hurry early. We jumped out ahead early and I think our guys thought this was going to be a cake walk and we were going to win by 30 and score 80 points.”
Ben Shriver added 13 points for Valley (18-3) after scoring 17 points against Wawasee last Friday in a 30-point victory in Akron. Kindig did add five assists, four rebounds and a pair of steals despite nursing an injured foot.
“It was just a couple bad decisions, and when you are playing a possession game like that, you can’t afford to mess up one possession,” Wawasee head coach Phil Mishler said. “Especially when you are already at the nine-point mark.”
Wawasee (5-16) closed its season with an active roster that had just one junior dressed and the remainder of active players either sophomores or freshmen. Chase Myers, who had played in almost every game for the Warriors this season, sat the final three games of his junior year after suffering a head injury against Westview.
That left a very young and inexperienced roster to fend for its tournament lives. A trio of sophomores reached double digits in scoring for the Warriors, led by Gage Reinhard’s 13 points and three steals. Alex Clark ended with 11 points and four rebounds and Jake Hutchinson added 11 points, hitting a couple buckets in the first half to keep the Warriors close. Stori Bright added 12 rebounds, six on the offensive end.
“With their ability to hit the three, we had to leave something open,” Mishler said. “We wanted to make sure Kindig didn’t get a lot of good looks. We were able to do that. We were able to dig on Andrews at first. But then a couple of their other players stepped up big and knocked some shots down.”
Valley now has to maintain focus against a Lakeland team that Patrick vows is not as bad as its record may elude. With star guard Spencer Mortola, Patrick isn’t booking a Saturday night return to Syracuse just yet. Friday night with Lakeland is first on the menu.
“You gotta win Friday or you don’t play Saturday,” stated Patrick. “Nick is a senior, (Jacob) Ritchey is a senior. Tanner is a junior who started three years. They have been around long enough that they should know what happens if you don’t show up to play.”
In game one of the night, NorthWood wore down a short-handed West Noble team in a 59-40 final.
Jonathan Wilkinson paced the Panthers (15-6) with 20 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Zach Zurcher added 12 points and six rebounds for Wood, which took a seven-point advantage from halftime and outscored West Noble 14-6 in the third quarter to pull away.
“In the second half, I felt that West Noble missed some shots that we were able to capitalize on the other end,” said NorthWood head coach Aaron Wolfe. “That was what gave us a 10-point lead and allowed us to pull away.
“I think we were fortunate they were not able to hit their free throws during that stretch,” Wolfe continued. “But I felt we were overanxious, we weren’t patient on defense at times. That gave them easy opportunities, especially at the free throw line.”
West Noble (15-6), which were without the services of star guard Drew Schermerhorn with an injured ankle, also had three players suspended before the tournament. The Chargers were 10-18 from the free throw line in the game, but missed four of those during a key stretch that had NorthWood extend its lead.
Doing what he could, Charger junior Phil Miller scored 13 points and pulled down nine boards. Senior Nick Thomas added eight points and two steals.
NorthWood will play in Friday night’s first semi-final against the 11-11 Fairfield Falcons. NorthWood hammered Fairfield, 65-37, on Dec. 8 in Benton. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. with game two to follow. Saturday’s sectional championship is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.