SOUTH WHITLEY – In a girls basketball game of ebbs and flows, Tippecanoe Valley weathered a Whitko storm well enough to escape with a 42-38 road win Saturday night.
After looking like it was poised to pull away from Whitko in the first half, Valley needed to make a defensive stand in the final 10 seconds to seal its third Three Rivers Conference win of the season.
Trailing by two with the ball, Whitko got the action and the shot it wanted with about 10 seconds to go. As the Valley defense chased Brianne Cumberland around a pair of screens, Hanna Yohe found herself wide open on the backdoor cut and the ball in her hands. But her shot from five feet did not go, and Valley’s Anne Secrest – who flew in late to alter Yohe’s shot flight path – pulled down her 11th rebound and hit the final two free throws of her 15-point night to end the game.
“That play wasn’t intended to pull Anne over, it was simply to divert the entire defense to the side and have the lob open,” noted Whitko head coach Brandon Bradley. “It was there. Then it just came down to physics. Five-foot-three against six-foot. (Yohe) will learn how to finish against girls that big, but just didn’t absorb the contact.”
Secrest was a real thorn in Whitko’s side, scoring 11 of her 15 points in the first half as Valley built a 17-12 advantage at the half. But a third Secrest foul midway through the third quarter and a fourth late turned the tide. Aly Reiff was the beneficiary of the vacancy in the Valley post defense, driving to the hoop at will in the second half.
Reiff scored all 16 of her points in the second half, and willed Whitko within two at 26-24 just before the end of the third.
Whitko took its first lead of the game with 5:48 to go when Cumberland sank two free throws while Reiff scored eight points in a three-minute stretch late in the fourth to pull Whitko within two at 42-40 after Valley went on a 7-0 run.
The stand at the end of the game was a benchmark moment for Valley head coach Chris Kindig, whose club moves to 9-1 overall and 3-0 in the TRC.
“I thought with a seven-point lead with about two minutes to go, we just needed to take care of the basketball and hit our free throws,” Kindig said. “We made the plays down the stretch we needed to make.
“We’ll take the win tonight.”
Cumberland was held to just two points in the second half and eight points overall but added four rebounds and three steals. Yohe tallied seven points in the losing effort.
Valley skated on thin ice for much of the game, losing Caylie Teel for a portion to a rolled ankle. Bench spark plug Hannah Dunn, who scored six key points in the fourth quarter, was rolling until picking up her fifth foul on a Reiff and-one that tied the game at 33. Karis Tucker, who had three steals and six points, also ended the night banged up according to Kindig.
“We are going to be tested Monday as far as our depth,” Kindig stated with a game at North Judson coming Monday night.
For Bradley, whose club drops to 5-5 overall and 2-1 in the TRC, the even keel of his sideline demeanor during the game was left to a smack of the scorebook in his office afterwards knowing one got away.
“This one hurts, and for the first time, you can see it on the girl’s faces,” Bradley said, who will guide his team next Dec. 29 against Peru at the Miami County Tournament. “The next step for us, do we forget it and get ready for Peru or dwell on it and let it sink us at the Miami County Tournament. That’s going to be the next step.”