HARTFORD CITY – The curtain has finally closed on the 2012-13 season for Tippecanoe Valley.
The Vikings bowed out of the Class 3-A Blackford Boys Basketball Regional by way of a 77-65 defeat at the hands of defending state runner-up Norwell. The Knights were able to pull away late in a game that was up for grabs for most of the contest.
After winning the tip for Valley, Tanner Andrews continued to give Norwell headaches. Andrews set the tone for the Vikings early on as he would tally eight points, five rebounds, two steals and a block to spark his team to a 15-12 lead after the first quarter. Andrews led the Vikings in the game with 22 points, nine rebounds and five steals.
After winning the turnover battle, 4-1, in the first quarter, the Vikings had the tables turned on them in the second. Norwell forced four Valley turnovers while only giving the ball away once. The Knights turned the four turnovers into five points, part of a 19-point effort in the quarter which gave Norwell a 31-29 advantage at the half.
Leading the second quarter surge for the Knights was the sharpshooting senior, Josh VanMeter. After a quiet first quarter, VanMeter scored seven points and dished out three assists in the second quarter. The improvement was a sign of things to come as the senior finished his afternoon leading all scorers with 26 points, hitting four three-pointers along the way. Valley head coach Bill Patrick gave VanMeter a lot of credit following the great performance.
“VanMeter is pretty good. That was the difference right there. Anytime he decides to show up and play, Norwell is going to be awfully good,” said Patrick.
Though it was VanMeter that led the team in scoring, it was another player’s performance that may have changed the course of the game.
Around the four-minute mark in the third quarter the Vikings made a quick scoring run to take a 42-40 lead. After the go-ahead basket by Valley, Norwell’s David Vogel completed a four-point play after being fouled on a made three-point shot and connecting on the free throw. The play brought the Norwell fans to their feet and was the beginning of a 15-2 run to close out the quarter. The Vikings never seemed to recover from the run and struggled to get any rhythm going from that point on.
The fourth quarter saw a valiant effort but Valley failed to close the gap inside of nine points. Both teams racked up the fouls but it was Valley that took the biggest toll as senior Nick Kindig fouled out with just over two minutes remaining in the game. With a double-digit deficit to mount and its top scoring threat out of the arsenal, the Vikings fate was all too certain. Kindig finished his final game as a Viking with 16 points, five assists and three steals.
A relieved Knight head coach Randy Hawkins spoke on his team’s performance, “I think the difference in the first and second half was night and day. In the third and fourth quarters we were able to take care of the ball a little better for the most part, we rebounded better, and we got to the rim a lot more.”
Norwell (18-6) shot just 50 percent from the field in the first half but was an impressive 71 percent in the second half.
Hawkins attributed his team’s win to staying focused at critical points in the game when his players would start to get frustrated with calls on the court.
“The guys get frustrated with calls and stuff and I told them to shake it off. You can’t let it show, you can’t wear it. ‘Play the next play,’ as we always say. Forget about the little things, not everything in life is going to go your way,” stated Hawkins.
Norwell went on to lose 67-58 to No. 7 Fort Wayne Concordia in the regional title game Saturday night. Concordia had won the first semifinal game 65-49 over Hamilton Heights.
Concordia (22-4) advances to play No. 3 Andrean (22-3) in the North Semistate game at Huntington North High School on Saturday. Norwell concludes its season at 18-7.
Coach Patrick said the game came down to scoring.
“I thought they scored very easy. We had to work hard to score. They scored without a lot of effort, part of that is because of their size and part of it is because of VanMeter. There was a stretch there in the second half where he hit two or three big shots, a couple of threes that hurt us,” Patrick stated.
Patrick would later add some kind words about his team and their journey this year.
“It’s a great group of kids. They work really hard. Mid-season they started to work a lot harder in practice. We had two kids that left the team and after that we really started to pull together a little bit more. This is just a good group of young men,” stated the long-time coach.
The Vikings finish with a 20-4 record and close the book on a great season that saw a conference championship and ended a six-year sectional title drought. Viking faithful bid farewell to the scoring efforts of Kindig and the defensive prowess of Jacob Ritchey but have a bright future to look forward to with three starters returning for next year’s team.