AKRON – The Tippecanoe Valley basketball team ran into the wrong team, at the wrong time when it hosted Culver Military Academy.
Over the past two seasons the Academy has gone a dismal 2-42 since its run to the State Finals in March of 2011. But the team is aimed at making another run to Indianapolis this season and was 2-1 entering its game with the Vikings on Tuesday night. Two stellar senior performances carried the Eagles to a 57-42 win, handing Valley its first loss of the season.
“The biggest key was for us to get off to a great start and I thought we did that,” began Culver Academy head coach Mark Galloway. “We took their fans out of it a little bit, we adjusted to the officiating and that’s what you have to do on the road.”
The Valley fans were certainly not left with much to cheer about on Tuesday night as Culver started the game shooting the ball very well while the Vikings struggled to find the bottom of the net. But despite a poor shooting first quarter, Valley only found itself down 13-10.
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The second quarter proved to be much more damaging for the home team though. The Vikings could only muster four points in the second frame and trailed 25-14 at half. Following the dismal outing on Tuesday night, Viking head coach Bill Patrick made it clear that he is growing tired of seeing poor offensive performances from his team.
“We’ve struggled shooting the last two games,” Patrick began. “We seem to be pressing for some reason. I think a lot of it is mental but that just means the kids will have to put a little more time in.
“It may be a case where kids did not put in as much time in the summer as they should have. That is a part of the game that you have to be pretty skilled at, you can’t just expect to pick a ball up and come out and shoot well.”
If shooting well is a product of offseason reps than the Academy’s Nick Zalduendo certainly spent more time on the court this past summer than on Lake Maxinkuckee.
Zalduendo got the Eagles offense going in the first half by hitting all three of his shots from behind the arc and at the foul line to lead his team with 12 points. The senior added another big three late in the game to give him 15 points on the night and help to ice his team’s 15-point win.
“We just came off of a tough weekend tournament in Cleveland, so we were prepared to play on the road,” started Zalduendo. “We had a tough practice yesterday and a lot of review of ourselves and on them (Valley). We knew they were going to throw a 1-3-1 defense at us, we knew who their shooters were. We were really well-prepared for this game and were definitely focused on getting this win.
Though clearly well-versed in his sport, Zalduendo stayed away from the “coach speak” and loosened up a little when asked specifically about his night.
“I was feeling it tonight,” Zalduendo said with a big smile. “I speak for myself and the rest of the team when I say that we have been working incredibly hard these previous offseasons and this season we’re really expecting it to show off.”
Another Eagle who was feeling it tonight was senior Devonte Campbell who led all scorers with 23 points. Tanner Andrews was the main offensive weapon for Valley on the night, leading his team with 13 points. Andrews helped to close a 20-point gap in the third quarter with a 7-0 run of his own, highlighted by a thunderous dunk. The Viking senior left the game with a knee injury in the fourth quarter and did not return but is expected to play in Valley’s Saturday night contest.
Once Andrews left, the Vikings struggled to keep any rhythm on offense as the Eagles would pull away for the victory.
The Vikings (3-1) will host John Glenn (1-3) on Saturday night, a team that Patrick knows is dangerous.
“John Glenn is a better team than Culver Academy,” said Patrick. “They (Glenn) have a much better defense than Culver does. Cuver had a weakness and we couldn’t take advantage of it. We will have to do that against John Glenn.”
Tip is set for 7:45 p.m. at Tippecanoe Valley High School.
In the junior varsity contest Culver Academy handed Valley a 46-35 loss. Justin Batiz of the Academy led all scorers with 24 points. Neil Clampitt led the Vikings with 11 points and even added a dunk of his own in the fourth quarter.