ROCHESTER — Friday night’s basketball game between rivals Tippecanoe Valley and Rochester will be one that gets referenced differently in the two school’s respective communities. Valley fans will certainly chalk it up as something that does not need revisited while Rochester fans will never want to forget.
The winless Zebras welcomed in their arch rival to The Barn Friday night look for anything to jump start a difficult season and they got it. Rochester stayed strong throughout and used some late heroics to walk away with a 54-53 victory.
“It’s a big one,” said Rochester head coach Rex Reinholt of his team’s win. “I mean, program wise, getting us off that goose egg in the win column, it gets us a win in the TRC. But I think its good for these guys just for momentum to get us going on the right track. I think we can put some wins together, get another streak going. It’s great for us mentally now we just want to get back to work and get going.”
The Zebras made it known early on that they were not going to be walked over. A first quarter full of lead changes and big baskets ended with Valley clinging to an 18-16 lead. In the second quarter Rochester just reaffirmed that its 0-8 record was no indication of its ability. A ferocious dunk from Brady Perez brought the home crowd to its feet as the two teams found themselves tied 22-22. Perez was fantastic on the night for the Zebras, scoring a team-high 18 points. Perez and the Zebras trailed 30-28 at the half and continued to bring the pressure in the third quarter.
Perez added another monstrous slam in the third to bring his team within one and then came back to give the Zebras the lead 35-34 with 4:15 left in the game. At the end of the quarter the Zebras were still playing catch-up, down 42-40.
A back-and-forth final quarter led to a fantastic final 90 seconds. Alec Craig hit two free throws to put Valley up 53-49 with 1:30 to play, the mood certainly started to turn from optimism to “here we go again” for the home crowd. That mood quickly changed following Austin Utter’s three with 57.8 on the clock Utter finished his night with 13 points.
With 36 second to go, the score unchanged, Valley held possession and was set up for an in-bounds play on the far sideline. Jarod Duzenbery was called for a charge before the ball ever got passed in, giving Rochester its chance.
The Zebras missed their first attempt at a go-ahead bucket, but Perez collected the offensive board and put it back up for two and the lead. Valley lost possession to a jump ball on the ensuing possession and that was essentially the end.
“Is there one?” Reinholt said with a laugh when asked about the game’s turning point. “I don’t know that there was one real turning point for us. I just thought our energy level was great. We stuck to our game plan and we executed. I don’t know that there’s one, single play, I think there’s six or seven that you can point back to and say that may have turned the tide. The energy was just great tonight.”
The charge on Duzenbery was the senior’s first foul of the night and, really, his first mistake. Duzenbery was dominant all game long for the Vikings. Duzenbery led all scorers with 21 points and also had a game-high nine rebounds.
“He played well,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Bill Patrick. “He did a good job the whole game. We needed to get him a break probably, he probably got a little bit tired. But he played well.”
Valley (6-7, 2-2) will have little time to dwell on the loss as the Vikings turn around and travel to Winamac for a 3 p.m. tip on Saturday.
“It’s not easy to do,” said Patrick about having a quick turnaround after a tough loss. “We play early, we don’t have much time to turn around, can’t worry about it. This is one of those games, rivalry game, conference game, it’s kind of hard to bounce right back. But, hopefully we can do that.”
Rochester (1-8, 1-3) travels to Caston Tuesday night.
Valley won the JV game 37-35. Zachary Graham and Jerry Plummer led Rochester with 10 points each. Cameron Parker led Valley with 10 points.