COLUMBIA CITY — A day that started with plenty of excitement ended with heartbreak for the Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball team. The Lady Vikings were looking to take the next step on their state tournament journey, but were cut short by a fierce Concordia team. The Cadets did the little things right and were able to wear down Valley to earn a 65-58 regional semifinal win.
The two teams played a very tight first half that left Concordia clinging to a 23-21 lead at the break. It also left an undertone that the Cadets were close to breaking the game open and that’s exactly they tried to do after the half.
The Cadets were unable to get a ton of distance from Valley, but still manged to outscore the Vikings 19-12 in the frame. Concordia also extended its lead to 11 twice during the period, that would be its largest of the game. Anne Secrest beat the buzzer for the Vikings to make the score 42-33 going into the fourth, but Secrest was limited on what she could do for most of the night. The senior was hit with her third foul late in the third quarter and the Cadets were making it hard for her to even have a chance offensively.
“We talked all week about fronting her (Secrest) and making it difficult to get the backside help, making her catch in the post, I thought we did a really good job with that,” said Concordia head coach David Miller. “Backside help was adequate, but they (Valley) are so good at shooting threes, when you try to help like that, they are going to make some. That’s just a very good basketball team, very balanced.”
Valley made a big run in the fourth to cut Concordia’s lead to two points, but sometimes it is just not meant to be. Regardless of what Valley did, Concordia was just a little better and able to keep its lead. While the Cadets helped put their lead on ice at the free throw line for much of the quarter, the victory was truly attributed to the defensive play.
“I think, for the most, there was a lot of ball pressure,” Valley head coach Chris Kindig explained. “It’s tough to make that entry pass when there’s a lot of pressure on the ball. She (Secrest) might flash open right away, but when there’s a lot of pressure, it’s hard to get that ball in there.”
Secrest came in averaging 16 points per game, but was held to eight on Saturday by the Cadets tenacious efforts. Of course, strong defensive play was no stranger to the Vikings.
“I thought, defensively, in the first half we played very well. I felt like we were okay, down two points, weathered the storm a little bit. Obviously Hannah Dunn, they were focusing on Anne, that really opened up Hannah in that first quarter. I was really proud of her for stepping up and doing what she needed to do.”
Dunn finished her day with a team-high 16 points. Sophie Bussard added 13 for the Vikings while Meredith Brouyette had eight and Addy Miller tallied seven before fouling out.
Secrest, Dunn, Brouyette and Taneisha Brown walked off the court for the final time Saturday afternoon. While their final game may be one they would all like to forget, the impact that their class had on Lady Vikings basketball is one that will be long-lasting.
“I think they just changed the culture of this girls basketball team,” Kindig said, with a lump in his throat. “I don’t think you could ever minimize that. I think everything changed. You’re going to look in five or ten years and really appreciate this group a little bit more, because of their dedication and commitment, the type of girls they are, those don’t come around very often. Once every 20 or 30 years, maybe. These girls I’m very proud of, they’ve put a lot of time and effort into it and that’s why they’ve been successful.”
Bussard and Miller highlight a returning crop of players for the Vikings. That group is much deeper, of course, as it also includes Emily Peterson, Olivia Trippiedi, Asia O’Connor and Sarah Tucker. The look and feel of the team will be different for Valley in the years to come, but that does not change the expectation.
“We have to keep up the standard,” Kindig said when asked about the message to his underclassmen. “There are some groups coming, the junior and sophomore classes, we’ll have to see about the freshmen. But there’s some players there, a lot of potential. I think they’ll keep working at it as hard as our seniors did. I’m really looking forward for some of those girls to step up and really get started next year.”
Valley finishes its season with a 22-5 record.
Concordia (21-5) lost in the regional championship Saturday night to defending state champion Heritage Christian 53-33. Heritage (21-6) moves on to semi-state to play South Bend St. Joe.