BREMEN — At times, Tippecanoe Valley’s opener at Bremen looked a little like Sophie Bussard against the world.
The senior Southeast Missouri State commit got her shots in, no doubt, finishing with a game-high 23 points, but even that performance was no match for a Lady Lions squad that boasted four players in double figures. And that offensive balance and a 43-21 second half by the hosts lent themselves to a 62-48 Lady Vikings loss Thursday night.
“I kind of alluded to that in some of the preseason stuff, that Sophie is going to do her thing. We just have to be able to get those other girls to step up,” explained Valley coach Chris Kindig. “A lot of these girls, there’s not a lot of varsity experience there, and it’s going to be a work in progress.”
Junior point guard Erin Coffel notched a team-high 18 points for Bremen, fellow guard Kaelyn Shively put up 13, and Haylie Rodriguez and Maryville University commit Karlee Feldman both scored 11 for the balanced Bremen squad. Shively scored eight of her points during a pivotal third period that featured a 10-3 quarter-ending run by the Lions, part of a larger 15-3 run by the hosts, and the visitors went from a 10-point lead at the start of the third period to trailing by double figures with Rodriguez’s free throws in the bonus at the 2:20 stop of the fourth.
“I knew this was going to be a tough match-up for us, especially if we needed to go man, and they played a small lineup. It was tough for us to match up with that. They have some really good shooters,” said Kindig.
“I knew with Shively and Coffel and obviously Feldman inside, that’s three really quality players, and they’re going to win a lot of basketball games.”
Fullcourt pressure helped give the Vikes the run of play in the first half, but with a largely inexperienced lineup and a bit of intermittent foul trouble, Valley was forced to pull out of that press in the second period. They used some safety press in the second half, but Bremen flipped the script on the Vikings, using swarming, trapping pressure to pester their guests into 11 second-half turnovers — Valley finished with 20 for the night compared to 15 by Bremen — and, more importantly, punished those miscues with 14 points off turnovers over the final two frames.
“We’re up eight or 10 points the first half. They turned the pressure up on us in that second half, came out and trapped us a little bit. That’s kind of sometimes hard to simulate in practice. They’re quick, and we turned the ball over a little bit,” Kindig said.
“That was the other thing too — I thought they beat us in transition in that second half. We were able to control that for the most part in the first half, and in the second half they got some easy transition buckets. All of a sudden, the momentum flips, and then we’re in an uphill battle.”
While Bussard finished with a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds to go with five steals and four assists, no other player stood out offensively for Valley. Sophomore guard Sidney Wagner scored eight, and fellow sophomore post Hayley Backus scored another eight points inside, but that was the only really meaningful production for the team. With the 5’11” Backus and 6-foot junior MaKenzie Woodcox both on the floor at numerous times, the Vikings didn’t get as much interior offense as Kindig might have liked, even during periods where the 6’1” Feldman was sitting out spells.
“Our post players are going to have to produce for us. We’ve got Sophie that really can play anywhere out on the floor. (Jillian) Walls is a good three-point shooter. She didn’t get a lot of good looks tonight, as much as I would like. Wagner is not a bad outside shooter. But we’ve got to be able to supplement that with an inside presence,” said Kindig. “I thought at times… yes, it’s a tough match-up defensively, but offensively we didn’t do a great job of getting the ball down in the post when we needed to to take advantage of that match-up on that end.”
Bremen opens at 1-0 with its first win over Valley in the Lions’ last nine tries, while the Vikings open at 0-1. Thursday’s opener was the start of a tough, five-game road trip for Valley before the team plays its home-opener on Nov. 24. Next up is a game at Culver Academy next Tuesday.
“Like every other team, you’ve got a lot of things you can work on. We’re going to look at the film. It’s one game at a time,” Kindig said.
“I don’t care who we play after that — we’re focusing in on Tuesday, and after that’s over we move onto the next game and focus on that. I know that’s coach speak, but with this team that is absolutely what we need to do.”
“I like this group; I do,” he added. “They’re great gals. They have great attitudes. They’re a quiet group, but I think we have a pretty good upside. By the time January comes around, we get it together, I think we can be tough to beat. We’ll see.”