DECATUR – 25 games worth of hard work, sweat and undying passion came down to four minutes for the Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball team Saturday afternoon at the Bellmont Regional.
The Lady Vikings avoided disaster at the end of regulation and played an excellent overtime period to advance past Muncie Central 50-41 to set up a date with Norwell in the regional title Saturday night.
After keeping a physical and athletic Central team in check for the overwhelming majority of the game, Valley’s season came down to a pair of free throws.
A missed free throw by the Lady Vikings with 14.3 seconds left in regulation gave the ball back to Central. The Bearcats, facing a 40-39 deficit, let their best player take the game into her hands. Jayla Scaife drove inside and drew a shooting foul with just 1.3 seconds to play. Everything the Lady Vikings worked for all season was about to be lost.
Lost until Scaife missed the front-end of her two shots from the charity stripe. The junior sank the second to tie the game, but the Lady Vikings had been given new life and that’s all they needed.
Just to make things interesting, however, Valley was given one more dose of adversity in the bonus frame. Sensational sophomore Anne Secrest picked up her fifth foul with 2:28 left while Valley was clinging to a 42-40 lead. Secrest left the contest with a game-high 17 points and was a force, as usual, on defense. It was the break that Central needed, the break the Bearcats wanted. But Valley did not flinch, not even for a second.
“I think we even turned it up a notch at that point,” stated a relieved Chris Kindig, Valley head coach. “That was really the key for us. Our girls didn’t blink, they didn’t give an inch after Anne fouled out. I think we may have even attacked the basket harder from that point on.
“Did Muncie Central give in a little bit with Anne out? Did they play softer? I don’t know, I don’t have an answer to that. But I can tell you that I sure liked what our girls did in that last two minutes of the game.”
With the sophomore out, the seniors stepped up. Caylie Teel extended the lead for Valley with a free throw shortly after Secrest’s exit while Taylor Trippiedi scored the following four points for Valley to put her team up 47-41 with under a minute to play.
Trippiedi did not see much action in the fourth quarter, but she knew she had to be a rock for her team in overtime and that exactly what she was.
“I had confidence in my team, we all had confidence in each other,” began Trippiedi. “When I got to the line in overtime, I knew that it was my time. I knew my team needed me and that they were counting on me now. It goes both ways. I’m just so proud of my team, I love all of those girls so much.”
Trippiedi scored six points in overtime, including the first basket of the session which proved to be the game-winner. Trippiedi finished the game with 10 points and was 4-4 from the charity stripe. As a team, Valley was 22-28 from the line. Central was 6-18 from the stripe and 1-6 in overtime.
Now the season will come down to one game, again. Valley will play Norwell at 8:00 p.m. for the regional title at Bellmont High School.
“The girls know that we didn’t come here just to win one game,” said Kindig. “We came to win a regional championship.”
The Lady Vikes are not afraid to state what they want. But are they really a team of destiny? When asked that after the win over Central, Trippiedi did not hesitate to answer, “Oh yeah, definitely.”