LIGONIER – Faced with some serious adversity, Tippecanoe Valley showed the mettle of a championship caliber club. With just a two-point lead and a hard-charging NorthWood team looking for the upset, Valley pulled together and closed the Class 3-A Sectional 21 semi-final on a 15-4 run to win 51-38 Friday night.
A three-pointer from Nicole Flickinger pulled NorthWood within two points at 34-32, the mood of the gym certainly leaning to the possibility of the Black Swish upsetting the two-time defending sectional champs for a second time this season. But a response from Meredith Brouyette, hitting a runner in traffic, gave Valley a two possession lead.
A pair of Kenzie Bergman free throws once again had the Panthers within a pair, but two straight buckets by Hannah Dunn would give Valley the oomph it needed. Dunn, who had all six of her points in the fourth quarter, sparked Valley’s ultimate run that was capped with 8-10 free throws made in the stretch.
The boost from Dunn was what Valley head coach Chris Kindig noted immediately in the postgame.
“Their freshman (Madison Payne) got into foul trouble and they were offensive and defensively switching her out, and we took advantage of that inside getting the ball in to Dunn,” Kindig said. “We went to her four or five times there in the second half. Six points all in the fourth quarter all on post-up plays. That helped a bunch.”
The end of the game was really the only point of the contest that was lopsided. Valley led only 5-2 at the end of the first quarter and 19-14 at the half. NorthWood kept it close in the third, using the handywork of Savannah Feenstra inside to stay close. Feenstra, who had a juicy matchup with Anne Secrest for much of the night, scored six of her team-high 15 points in the third to keep NorthWood down just three at 28-25 entering the fourth.
“She’s so assertive,” NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder said of Feenstra. “Savannah’s strength is really her ability to face the basket and attack off the dribble. She is able to compete with big post players that way because they have to come out and respect the fact that she can shoot the ball. If you look at that girl’s growth from her freshman to junior year, I thought she has just battled really hard every single year.”
Secrest, who has danced with foul trouble in some of the higher profile games this season, managed to stay out of the foul column until the third quarter. The freedom to roam optioned Secrest to score 13 points and pull down eight rebounds. Brouyette would lead the Vikes with 14 points and five assists and both Addy Miller and Sophie Bussard finished with eight points.
Taitlyn Trenshaw, Flickinger and Erin Graber saw their NorthWood careers come to an end. Trenshaw finished with nine points, Flickinger made just the one three and Graber contributed on defense in the lid topper. Yoder, who called a timeout late to make sure his seniors were honored, spoke proudly of their contributions and the path they’ve created for a Panther program that closes 16-10 overall.
“All three of those girls are so different in their own ways in the roles they play,” Yoder said of his seniors. “They are energy givers. They try to make people better, make situations better every single day. They work hard in practice and were coachable, we couldn’t have asked for much more.”
Valley (21-4) is now set up for a rematch of last year’s sectional championship with Fairfield (13-9) winning game one Friday night, 56-41, over host West Noble. Kindig was impressed with the Falcons’ play in manhandling a very talented Chargers club on its home court.
”Scrappy, a scrappy team,” Kindig noted of Fairfield. “They don’t have a lot of size but they shot the ball pretty well tonight. I thought they played with a lot of effort and really played hard.”
The Falcons pulled a page from West Noble’s book from its Tuesday win over Lakeland and bombarded the Chargers with three-pointers. The Falcons hit seven overall, four coming from Drea Lockwood all in the second half. A single-digit first half lead turned into a 20-point bulge as Lockwood connected on bombs to open the fourth.
Erica Zook led Fairfield with 14 points and Felicity Bontrager added nine points. West Noble’s Kaylie Warble saw her prolific career end Friday after scoring 11 points in the loss.
The West Noble sectional championship will start at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night, the winner facing either Fort Wayne Dwenger or Fort Wayne Concordia in the second game of the Columbia City Regional next Saturday. Winners from Tipton and Norwell sectionals will play in game one at Columbia City.