AKRON – Every time Tippecanoe Valley looked like it was primed to make a run, Peru would match and more. The Tigers were steady in holding off the Vikings, 53-38, Tuesday night in Three Rivers Conference boys basketball.
An outstanding show of discipline at the free throw line in the fourth quarter had Peru hit 18 of 21 attempts in the final eight minutes and 20-23 overall. For seemingly every Valley make in the fourth, Peru would soon be standing on the other end with the clock idle, getting two points back.
Tippy had the game down to an eight-point deficit in the fourth, but could get no closer. Gavin Bussard’s free throw sliced Peru’s lead to 37-29, and following a rare miss at the line by Peru, Valley had the ball only to turn it back over to Peru. Five straight points on free throws by Peru would put Valley in desperation mode.
“We’re struggling in our half court offense,” stated Tippecanoe Valley head coach Bill Patrick. “We’re obviously going to have to try something different. Maybe a full court game or in a half court set. We’re not getting really good shots sometimes, and when we do, we aren’t able to hit those shots.”
Bussard did all he could for the Vikings, scoring all 16 of his points in the second half – 12 of which came in the fourth quarter. Peru, on the other hand, did a fantastic job of staying in front of Bussard in the first half, as it did with all the Valley shooters. The Vikings made just four baskets in the first half and were tentative in its shot selection.
Valley also lost Neil Clampitt to an ankle injury in the first half and the senior did not return. Relegated to the bench with an ice pack on his foot, Clampitt’s absence forced Valley to change its press rotation and both the offensive and defensive strategies.
Able to throw over the top, Peru found Jermaine Johnson in its press break and the speedy sophomore was usually open. Getting to the rim, Johnson scored all five of his baskets from inside five feet and finished with 11 points. Tyler Murphy, who was 9-10 from the stripe, led Peru with 19 points.
Alec Craig and Trevor Neeley each finished with six points and Clampitt had four points before leaving. Coach Patrick did not know of the severity of the injury immediately after the game.
“He sprained his ankle and there didn’t seem to be any swelling,” Patrick said of Clampitt. “He taped it. He said he couldn’t go, that’s all I know. He made the decision to try it, the trainer said it was OK to try it. He didn’t feel he could play. It was his decision.”
Peru improves to 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the TRC, looking forward to a conference matchup with Southwood Saturday night. Valley falls to 1-5 overall, suffering its first loss in the TRC. Up next for Valley this Friday is a Whitko squad that just helped coach Roger Fleetwood to his 500th win last Saturday night in what could be a very important game for Valley’s fortunes.
“They are a much better team, they have improved,” Patrick said. “Whitko has three kids in double figures and the (Tanner) Gaff kid is averaging nine. They have two really good outside shooters in (Nate) Walpole and River West. (Garrett) Atkins is averaging 10 or 11, so it certainly doesn’t get any easier.”
In the JV matchup, Valley built a lead in the second half and kept it in a 50-43 final. Ivan Santiago had a big night for the Vikings with 20 points while Jake Gearhart tossed in 15 points. Gavin Gysin had 13 points and Nathan Brimbury netted 12 points for the Tigers.