NAPPANEE – The Tippecanoe Valley Lady Vikings basketball team knew it would have a challenge on Friday night when it took on NorthWood in the sectional semifinals on the Lady Panthers home court. NorthWood came in ranked No. 11 in Class 3A but played like it was No. 1.
Black Swish, as the NorthWood girls have become know over the years, lived up to its name hitting shots from every angle and every spot on the court ultimately ending Valley’s by outscoring the Vikings, 84-61.
Chris Kindig, the Lady Vikings head coach, knew NorthWood was very, very good but even he was surprised by the margin and path to victory for the Lady Panthers.
“If you would’ve told me before the game that we were going to score 61 points, I would’ve felt pretty good about our chances,” said Kindig.
Valley and NorthWood exchanged baskets for most of the first quarter, but momentum was clearly in favor of the Lady Panthers heading into the second. Maybe it was because of the 21-14 lead, maybe it was home court advantage or maybe it was Haley Roe.
Roe found herself open, wide open, at the top of the key on three of NorthWood’s first five possessions and promptly turned her opportunities into points. Three shots from deep and a put-back two gave Roe, a player averaging just four points per game coming into Friday night, 11 points in the first quarter.
Yes, Valley had planned for standouts Jordan Frantz and Morgan Olson to be issues, and Olson scored eight in the first quarter, but who was this Roe girl? Roe and the Lady Panthers were on track to score 84 points after the first quarter, and that’s exactly where they ended up. It was clearly NorthWood’s night because it just might be NorthWood’s year.
Legendary NorthWood head coach, Steve Neff is in his 37th and final season at NorthWood High School. Neff and the Lady Panthers are looking for their third consecutive sectional title and fifth in the past six years. Neff has accumulated 23 sectionals, 10 regional, two semi-states and one state title (1999). Several NorthWood players remarked in post-game interviews how they want to send their coach out the right way.
One such player was Frantz. The junior guard quietly scored 17 points and played a n excellent game on the defensive end of the court. Frantz scored most of her points in the second half to help seal the Lady Panther victory.
One weapon that Valley has had all year was freshman center, Anne Secrest. Secrest played out of her mind in Wednesday night’s win over Fairfield but struggled on Friday against Olson, a senior center for NorthWood that was almost unstoppable.
Secrest managed to score 10 points but the freshman was clearly rattled and overwhelmed, as most players are, with the task of guarding Olson. Olson scored 25 points and pulled down double-digit rebounds, creating a lot of second-chance opportunities for her team.
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Then, of course, there was Roe. She finished the half with 18 points and stayed quiet until the closing minutes of the game where she took her tally up to 26 to finish as the game’s leading scorer.
Valley had excellent scoring efforts from Cara Hoffman (20 points) and Caylie Teel (17) but it was ultimately not enough for the Lady Vikings to outscore the red-hot Black Swish shooters.
“We just ran into a buzz saw tonight, we really did,” Kindig said. “They have a lot of experience and have been through the wars before. Obviously they got a lot of help from that Roe. We were trying to key on Frantz and Olson and then Roe goes and has a career game.
“Playing against a quality team like this tonight will help our young girls down the road. We will have the bulk of this team back next year, as a lot of teams in this sectional will. This is going to be a very exciting and competitive sectional the next few years.”
Kindig also added of NorthWood, “They (NorthWood) really were just hitting on all cylinders. If they continue to play this way, I don’t see who can beat them in this part of the state.”
Well, one of Valley’s main rivals is hoping it can knock of the might Lady Panthers.
Whitko beat Lakeland 6-45 in the night’s first semifinal game. The Lady Wildcats will tip-off against NorthWood tonight in the sectional title at 7:30 p.m. at NorthWood High school.