AKRON – Whitko’s boys basketball team will eventually come together. It just wasn’t going to be Friday night.
Tippecanoe Valley exposed Whitko’s glaring weaknesses full bore in the first half, leading to a 70-49 victory Friday night at Valley.
Without a presence inside, Whitko had two options. One, watch Tippecanoe Valley soar to the hoop as it did for much of a 23-6 first quarter. Or two, foul Valley to slow the game down and take the ball to the hoop on the other end, as Whitko slowly began to do in the second half.
The Vikings were more than happy to take what Whitko gave in the first five minutes of the game, running out to an 18-4 lead as Chandler O’Connor slid in for eight of his team-high 20 points. As O’Connor piled up 16 of those in the first half, Valley also spread the wealth as Neil Clampitt had nine points and Alex Thacker eight points at the break.
Thacker wound up with 16 points on the night and Clampitt one back at 15 points.
“We had really good ball movement in the first half,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Bill Patrick. “We scored 42 points in the first half where we only took one shot where we didn’t have five or six passes, and still got good shots.”
Whitko, which head coach Roger Fleetwood acknowledged is still trying to gel after a rebuild in the offseason, didn’t have a lot of answers in the first half, but recovered to make a game of it in the second half.
Despite trailing by over a dozen points for the entire second half, Whitko did have possession and down just 15 in the fourth quarter. The air was slightly uncomfortable for the pro-Valley crowd that included members of the 2000 regional team as well as several newer program alums. The lead on the scoreboard was big, but Whitko had continued to chip away, and after four straight points and a stop, were looking to make things interesting.
But a miss, followed by a 7-0 Valley run pushed the lead back up to 22, thus ending any threat.
“It was disappointing the way we started,” Fleetwood stated. “I thought we would play better than that. I didn’t know if we would beat them on their court, but I thought we could play within 10 to 12 points the whole game. We showed that in the second half. I thought if we could have started the way we ended, maybe it would have been a 10-point loss instead of a 21-point loss.”
Nate Walpole carried Whitko Friday night with his 22 points, but also missed several shots from close range as the sophomore began to shoot more starting in the second quarter. Freshman River West was responsible for Whitko’s surge in the second half, scoring all 12 of his points in the third quarter.
The Wildcats, however, only had two points from its bench and were severely outrebounded in the early going, corralling just two defensive rebounds in the first half.
“They came out and just blitzed us,” Fleetwood said. “We don’t really have a big guy inside and they have size. We got killed on the boards. I thought that was the biggest thing. Even though they made some shots early, when they missed, they got the rebound and put it back in.”
Added Patrick, whose team will look to stay hot Saturday night in hosting Oregon-Davis, “Tomorrow night’s game scares me because the girls have a game at Whitko and there won’t be a lot of people here. Oregon-Davis is a team like Whitko, where everybody they have played they lost by just a few points. They have seven seniors and it’s a little scary this time of year playing two in a row.”
The junior varsity game went to Valley, a 47-35 winner over Whitko. Keith Wright led Valley and all scorers with 14 points while Whitko’s Dalton Frame had 10 points.
Tippecanoe Valley (3-3) and Oregon-Davis will begin with the JV contest at 6:15 p.m. Whitko (0-6) will return to action Dec. 29 at the Miami County Tournament.