AKRON — There was plenty of madness in Friday’s game between Whitko and Tippecanoe Valley. The two Three Rivers Conference rivals entered the contest desperate for a win and in search of an identity as the season creeps towards it halfway point. Those circumstances created a historic night for the two programs as the Vikings fought to a thrilling 96-92 victory in quadruple overtime.
“It’s a big game for us,” said Valley head coach Bill Patrick. “In a double overtime loss to Glenn we made some of the same mistakes we made here tonight and we let that game get away from us. It’s a big win for us.”
Patrick’s team really seemed to control the tempo and momentum throughout the entire night, but the Vikings were unable to shake the Wildcats, or at least one Wildcat, until very late.
Nate Walpole dropped 46 points on Valley’s defense, literally half of his team’s offensive output, but the Wildcats came up short. A balanced attack gave Whitko a 31-29 lead at the half, but that production dipped significantly from the rest of the team. Whitko scored 35 combined points in the third and fourth quarters, Walpole had 22 of them.
The fourth overtime is where Valley changed things up and did its best to keep the ball out of Walpole’s hands. After winning the tip, the Vikings played keep away for the first 2:12 of the period before a missed chance under the basket gave possession to the Wildcats. A turnover quickly gave the ball back to Valley where Keith Wright scored in transition to put his team up 89-97. Wright would prove to be a key player later on as well.
Wright hit a pair of free throws with 33 seconds left in the game to put Valley up 93-90. He then knocked the ball away from Walpole on the ensuing Whitko possession which led to a steal for and free throw from Alec Craig. After a two from Whitko’s Bechtold, Wright again found himself at the charity stripe and once more sank both shots to put his team up 96-92 with just 2.7 seconds to spare.
Wright was 6-8 from the free throw line and tallied 21 points on the night. He was one of three Vikings to total 20 or more points. The other two were Craig and Jarod Duzenbery, both of who were prominent from start to finish for the Vikings. Craig had a team-high 28 points and completed the double-double with 11 assists. Duzenbery was a force for Valley on Friday and it showed as he finished with 24 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Joining those three in double figures were DeSean Heckman and Cameron Parker who each had 11 points for the Vikings. Wes Melanson was the only other Viking to score as he finished with one point.
“We intended to play more players than we did,” Patrick explained. “But, the way the game went, we just kind of got caught in a position where we were playing five. I wasn’t sure if we were in good enough condition to go that long, but, obviously, we were for the most part.
“We played hard. Walpole worked hard to get his points. He’s really a good player. He’s a hard player to stop, really. I thought we did a nice job on (River) West in the second half. The first half we didn’t, but the second half we did. That may have been the key, when we shut him down.”
West had nine points at the half but scored just three points the rest of the way to finish with 12. His absence, offensively, was one of many for the Wildcats after the break. First-year Wildcat head coach took notice to Walpole being the only player getting things done at a certain point.
“He’s the only one that stepped up,” Henson said of Walpole. “River probably missed his last 10 shots, and that’s what happened against Wawasee. It’s not just River. Some of these guys just have to step up. We’re up six with over a minute left and, it’s the same stuff again. It’s turnovers, it’s not wanting the ball. If I’m a player out there, especially a senior, late in the game, I want the ball. Then I’m going to go to the foul line and knock them down. But I can’t go out there and do it for them.
“It’s hard to keep watching because it’s the same mistakes that we’ve repeated the last three games. This is a team that, probably, should be 7-0. But, we don’t deserve to be 7-0. We don’t deserve it because we don’t close out games.”
After watching four quarters and 16 minutes of bonus time, Henson finally came to a conclusion.
“Those first three quarters were so lackadaisical in our performance that, honestly, we didn’t deserve to win tonight,” Henson admitted. “I felt like, no, I can’t even say that we were the better team, because we’re not, clearly. We got beat. We’re not the better team, they are.”
Spencer Sroufe scored 14 for Whitko and led all players with 11 rebounds to complete his double-double. Alex Bechtold scored 13 to join his teammates in double figures.
The four overtimes were a record for both programs. The 188 combined points set a new record for the series while Valley’s 96-point effort was the most scored by a Viking squad against Whitko in series history. The most points scored by one team in the head-to-head series was 98 by the 1983-84 Wildcats team coached by Patrick.
Valley (3-4, 1-1) plays in the Caston Tournament Dec. 29 through Dec. 30 while Whitko (4-3, 1-1) will host East Noble Monday night.
Whitko won the JV contest 43-41. Shad Ebbinghouse led the Wildcats with 17 while Valley was led by Parkur Dalrymple’s 12 points.