SYRACUSE – Retribution has been a dish served cold at the Wawasee Boys Basketball Sectional. Three of the four wins in the tournament saw a regular season loss avenged, and two of those came Friday night in the semi-finals. Tippecanoe Valley exacted revenge on NorthWood with a big-time second half rally while Wawasee trounced West Noble in a shocking blowout in the second game of the night.
TIPPECANOE VALLEY 45, NORTHWOOD 41
NorthWood held the advantage for the first 29 minutes of the first game of the semi-final. A pair of Cam Parker free throws just under the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter gave Valley its first lead of the night, one that had reached double digits in NorthWood’s favor in the first half.
What had already been a very entertaining game would get even better as the two went moment for moment the final three minutes, starting with a Trent Edwards bucket immediately after Parker’s free throws. Parker then came down and hit a three. After Edwards converted an and-one to get Wood back within one at 39-38, Jalen Shepherd made possibly the play of the night, hauling in an offensive rebound between two NorthWood defenders and keeping possession. Tanner Trippiedi would hit two free throws and Shepherd would grab another important defensive rebound as NorthWood was in desperation mode.
“Some of the plays we made in that fourth quarter were just…” quipped Valley head coach Chad Patrick. “We really hustled there at the end. I think Wes’ (Melanson) will to win and Cam’s (Parker) will to win just carried to the other guys. Like I said, just a great team win.”
Lost amidst all of the late-game entertainment was a career night from Valley’s Wes Melanson as the big fella continued to rain threes. Melanson had only hit 17-48 threes on the season coming into the night, but was a perfect 5-5 Friday. His make late in the third cut NorthWood’s lead to two at 26-24, but was on the back end of a tough patch that saw NorthWood score five points during a 20-second span where Valley was whistled for three fouls that had the green-and-gold clad southwest corner of the Hardwood Teepee in hysterics. Melanson finished his night with 17 points and was 6-7 from the floor overall.
Cam Parker added 15 points for Valley and Shepherd had just one point, a free throw late in the fourth, but had 11 huge rebounds as Valley won the rebound battle 26-21.
On the other side, NorthWood’s Ben Vincent did what he could to keep NorthWood in it. The sophomore sharpshooter was a perfect 5-5 from three and ended with 17 points. Vincent was a perfect 8-8 from range in the sectional.
NorthWood, however, shot just 30 percent in the second half and had seniors Nick Bean and Matt Dutkowski combine for a 1-9 shooting night in their final game in the red and black.
“I think it’s very difficult in competitive athletics to win your last game,” said NorthWood head coach Aaron Wolfe. “Therefore, your mind quickly turns to your seniors and guys that have been with you for four years. And that’s the most difficult part of finishing a season. Obviously, (manager) Dylan Weldy, Matt Dutkowski and Nick Bean mean a tremendous lot to our basketball program. I think everybody starts out in Indiana trying to win their last game, but for most, it’s just difficult.”
NorthWood closes at 10-13 this season while Tippecanoe Valley, which lost to NorthWood by six at The Pit in mid February, advances to the championship with a 14-9 mark.
WAWASEE 65, WEST NOBLE 43
Wawasee played arguably its best overall game of the season at the best time, barnstorming a West Noble side many thought had a real shot at winning the entire sectional when the draw came out.
After playing to a 13-10 score in favor of Wawasee after the first quarter, Wawasee opened up a 24-15 lead buoyed by three points from seldom-used Keaton Dukes. Possibly the pivotal moment of the first half came at the 1:31 mark of the second quarter when Charger big man David Flores picked up his third foul and had to sit. Flores, who dropped 21 points on Lakeland Tuesday night, would become a virtual non-factor the rest of the way.
Wawasee’s shooters then got hot in the second half, particularly Bennett Hoffert, who drilled a three to put Wawasee up 14 at 40-26, and the flood gates were opening. Ethan Hardy stepped out of the post and hit a three, then came back inside after Flores drew his fourth foul and hit another big basket. Hoffert’s next triple put the Warriors in control 47-26.
“West Noble is a really good team. They have really good personnel that would frighten anybody,” said Wawasee head coach Jon Everingham. “We worried about all of them. It’s the type of things that happen in a sectional. They played a little tight and got behind in the game and tried to force some things. I was really worried about Flores because of his jumping ability. The biggest key was keeping him off the offensive glass. We had to keep him off the offensive glass and Ethan did a great job of that tonight.”
Hoffert was 5-8 from deep and led the Warriors with 19 points. Hardy checked in with 15 points and seven boards and Austin Miller, while just 1-9 from the floor, was 8-8 from the free throw line and finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Flores would finish with just five points and two rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Trevor Franklin and Takota Weigold, who each scored 13 points in a 50-48 win at Wawasee in December, combined for just five points on 2-13 shooting. Nick Knepper closed his West Noble career with 19 points.
The Chargers bid adieu to their season at 12-12 while the Warriors march onto the final at 6-16.
The sectional championship between Tippecanoe Valley and Wawasee will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday night at the Hardwood Teepee. Both teams are looking to end modest title droughts, Valley seeking its 10th overall and first since 2013 and Wawasee chasing its seventh and first since 2010. By the way, Valley beat Wawasee, 48-45, in Akron to close the regular season last week.
The winner of the sectional will play next Saturday at the Marion Regional in game two against either No. 1 Delta or New Castle.