NAPPANEE – The Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball team finished what it started Tuesday night.
The Vikings used a stellar start and a fine finish to turn back host NorthWood 56-48 in a key non-conference clash.
Valley, ranked No. 4 in Class 3-A, bounced back from a rare league loss last week to down the host Panthers in a matchup of potential sectional foes.
Sophie Bussard was once again sensational for the Vikings to pace the winners. The junior canned a game-high 20 points, including eight in the final frame as Valley held off the Panthers.
Senior Addy Miller came up with 14 big points for the Vikings, despite sitting out almost all of the third quarter due to foul trouble. Junior Emily Peterson added 11 points for Valley.
Outstanding sophomore Maddy Payne led NorthWood, which drops to 13-5, with 15 points. Sophomore Kate Rulli had another strong game for the Panthers with 10 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists.
Valley, which improves to 15-2, never trailed in the game.
The Vikings outscored NorthWood 23-15 over the final 6:21 of the contest after the Panthers had drawn even at 33-33. Peterson drained a huge triple with 5:36 remaining to give her team the lead for good.
“This is a tough place to play,” said Valley coach Chris Kindig. “It was nice to come in here tonight and play well. I thought that we were able to play with a lot more poise tonight than we did on Thursday. We hit our free throws and took care of the ball. It’s a good win.”
Valley had dropped a 53-52 final at home to Northfield last Thursday to see its 32-game win streak in the Three Rivers Conference come to a halt.
The Vikings responded from the start Tuesday night. Valley used a 10-0 run in the opening frame to take a quick 15-4 lead. Valley’s full court defense forced NorthWood into six miscues in the first quarter, including a handful in the first five minutes.
“We talked before the game about getting off to a much better start tonight,” noted Kindig. “That was a point of emphasis and the girls came out and did a nice job. Our strategy was to speed them up with our press against their three big 6-footers and it was effective in the first half.”
Valley, which lost to NorthWood in the regular season and then beat the Panthers en route to their third straight sectional title last season, led 15-9 after the first frame. The Vikings closed the first half with a 6-0 run to lead 27-20 at intermission.
Valley saw the dynamite duo of Bussard and Miller each key shots in a 10-2 run in the fourth period to take control of the game. Smooth Miller hit a pair of huge treys for her team on back-to-back possessions.
“Addy has been shooting the ball extremely well,” Kindig said. “She hit some big shots tonight. But she’s a senior and I expect that of her.”
Valley drained eight triples in the win with Miller and Peterson each knocking down a trio of trifectas.
“We wanted to play the percentages and make some others hit outside shots for them and Peterson hit several,” noted NorthWood coach Adam Yoder.
Yoder was not discouraged at all overall with his team focused on a huge conference game at Northridge on Saturday night. Both the Panthers and Raiders are undefeated in NLC action.
“This game was important to us, but Saturday is much, much important,” commented Yoder. “We had one day to prep for this game, just like the Fairfield one several weeks ago, and we played much better today that we did against Fairfield.
“We just had poor ball handling that first four minutes tonight. I thought after that that we were pretty clean with the turnovers. If we just cut down the turnovers, we will be in good shape. We’re doing a much better job getting the ball in to our post players.”
Junior Kenzie Bergman had seven points and senior Savannah Feenstra and sophomore Karlie Fielstra five each for NorthWood. Feenstra also had seven rebounds and two steals. Neely Trenshaw had four assists.
Senior Asia O’Connor had six points and sophomore Jillian Walls five for the Vikings. Senior guard Olivia Trippiedi also gave Valley a boost as she returned after missing the last three games due to illness.
Both Valley and NorthWood will play in the Class 3-A Fairfield Sectional in three weeks.
NorthWood won the junior varsity game 41-29. Maddie Kuhn had 12 points and Bre Wise 11 to lead the JV Panthers. Hayley Backus had 14 points and Sidney Wagner seven to lead Valley.
Valley plays at Rochester and NorthWood visits Northridge in a pair of conference games Saturday night.