AKRON – It looked like two different Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball teams playing Saturday night. A sluggish host fell behind Westfield early in the championship game of the Thanksgiving Classic hosted by Tippecanoe Valley, only for a second-half surge to lift the Lady Vikings to a title after a thrilling 49-46 win.
Valley held on in the final minute, needing two blocked shots to keep Westfield from tying the game on its final two opportunities. Leading 48-46, Anne Secrest blocked her sixth shot of the night as Haliegh Reinoehl turned to the basket for a shot. And with one tick left on the clock, a desperation three from Abby Reeder was rejected by Caylie Teel as the clock struck zero, sending Valley to its fifth tourney championship and first since 2011.
“It was an amazing feeling getting the win,” Secrest said. “They were a ranked 4-A team, at the beginning of the year and that was really good for us. We all played really well and are playing good basketball right now.”
All was not well in the Viking kingdom early as Westfield jumped out to a 13-5 lead and extended it to 18-9 after a quarter. Valley slowly began to chip away, and used an 8-0 run to end the half, cutting the Westfield lead to 24-23.
Westfield again looked like it was poised to claim its first Thanksgiving title after two straight backdoor buckets gave the Fighting Shamrocks a 39-31 lead midway through the third quarter.
Valley, however, would go on a 9-2 run, taking its first lead on a steal from Teel finding Secrest on the outlet pass for two, giving Tippy a 42-41 lead. After Reeder hit a three to put the Shamrocks up 44-42, Teel responded with a running jumper to tie the game. Karis Tucker would then hit four free throws to put Valley up two possessions, to which the hosts would not relinquish the lead.
“It was so nice to see us rally against a quality team like Westfield,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Chris Kindig. “They got us down eight, ten, eleven points and we didn’t fold. We just kept chipping away at it and played some really good basketball. We acted like a veteran team, even though we really are still pretty young.”
Secrest had a huge night, finishing with 11 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks, two assists and a steal. Teel locked in with seven points and four rebounds and fought through a rolled ankle for much of the second half.
Taylor Trippiedi, who joined Teel and Secrest on the All-Tournament team, scored 11 points and Tucker wound up with 10 points, hitting all six of her free throw attempts.
Maddy Grennes led Westfield (3-2) with 16 points, Allison VanDyke had 12 points and five boards, and Reineohl had 10 points and nine boards. Reeder ended up with seven points, and joined VanDyke on the All-Tournament team.
Tippecanoe Valley now sits at 4-0 on the season, and Kindig feels his club is just getting warmed up.
“We just needed to know that we could play with 4-A schools,” Kindig said. “Hopefully this is not the highlight of our year. We are working for bigger things here, but let’s not overlook this, either. That is not a soft team we just beat. That is a preseason top-20 team in 4-A. They are going to win a lot of basketball games. But tonight was a big win for this program. Probably somebody on paper we didn’t have any business beating.”
The consolation game had Fort Wayne South Side run its record to 2-5 after a 53-40 win against Portage. Taniece Chapman led the Archers with 13 points, Kaitlyn Shafer paced Portage (3-3) with 18 points.
In the morning games, Westfield beat South Side 55-43. Reeder led the ‘Rocks with 19 points and Chapman had 12 points in the losing effort. Valley had 20 points from Secrest and 11 from Teel in a 56-37 win over Portage. Trippiedi added nine points and Asia O’Connor chipped in six for the Lady Vikings while Shafer led Portage with 12 points. Shafer and South Side’s Maria Moore rounded out the All-Tournament team.