MARION — Tippecanoe Valley ran into a buzz saw in the late Marion Regional semifinal Saturday afternoon.
After a spectacular run that saw the Vikings reel off eight wins in their last 10 games, Valley squared off against No. 1-ranked, unbeaten Delta, and the Eagles were every bit as good as advertised. Tall, long and skilled, Delta’s deep cast of players beat the Vikings in every statistical category, using a 15-0 run spanning from the 3:12 mark of the second quarter to the 7:06 stop of the third to seize control after a back-and-forth first period. Already trailing by 16, Valley’s hole only got deeper from there, and the Vikings closed with a 54-28 loss in Marion. The Eagles advanced to play the host Giants — a 59-38 winner over Angola in the tourney opener — in the championship Saturday night.
“They’re a really good team. It’ll be an amazing game tonight and a crazy atmosphere,” said Valley coach Chad Patrick. “Just disappointed for these guys because they played so hard all year. The seniors worked so hard to get here. Just a phenomenal season and a great group of kids.”
Patrick’s players hung with the Eagles through a first period that saw five lead changes. The Vikings held Delta to just 3-of-12 shooting in that opening stanza and were still tied up before Tyler Wilburn’s long triple from the wing at the 5.6-second stop of the clock gave Delta a 13-10 lead, which Class 3A’s top-ranked team only grew from there.
The Eagles (27-0) held Valley (15-10) to 2-of-9 shooting in the second period, outscoring the Vikings 15-4 in the process as part of a 30-12 scoring advantage in the middle quarters.
“The first quarter we got a couple threes. We knew they were big inside and we were trying to take drive and take them in the lane and dish, and we did it well,” Patrick recalled. “Second quarter for some reason we thought we could get those layups against the 6-5 kids, and we took some really bad shots about three possessions in a row.
“That was the game. In hindsight I probably should’ve taken a timeout there. I just haven’t used them that early. Usually we play through things.”
“Really early on they were able to get in the paint and really attack us. We were concerned about that — we thought they would really get the ball in the paint like they did early,” explained Delta coach Mark Detweiler. “And then I thought we absorbed (contact) a little bit better. I thought we adjusted pretty well and tried to give space because it’s what they do, and they’re well-coached. We felt like if we could take the lane away from them that that would really keep them from maybe scoring, and I thought we did a good job as the game got going of taking the lane away.”
Senior swing Josh Bryan’s hot hand had a lot to do with the scoring discrepancy in the second and third quarters, as he knocked down a pair of three-pointers in the last two-and-a-half minutes of the second period to get his team’s offensive rolling. Bryan finished with a game-high 21 points on 5-of-8 three-point shooting for a Delta side that scored at an 18-of-42 (43 percent) clip from the floor against Valley.
“We held Bryan to I think six points until the last minute or two of the first half, then he hit those two threes, and he’s just too good to leave open,” Patrick said.
“I thought our offense got better. I thought we got to the second side. We like to run,” said Detweiler. “Now, at times we forget how important it is to reverse the basketball, and I thought once we reversed the ball, and Josh Bryan for us, the left, he’s pretty darned good, so when we get a little deeper into our halfcourt offense and he gets a second touch, then usually good things happen for us.”
Delta’s dominance rebounding the ball didn’t help matters much, either. The Eagles out-boarded Valley 35-20. Nine of those came on offensive end, which they parlayed into 11 second-chance points, all in the first half as they gradually settled in to their half court offense. Six-foot-five sophomore forward Brady Hunt pulled down 10 of those caroms himself to lead Delta, which had four players listed at 6-3 or taller.
“He had a sectional semifinal with 21 rebounds. It’s what he does, and it’s why we’re here,” said Detweiler of Hunt. “It’s no secret we rebound the ball well. We’ve got some guys who have really embraced that role, and I felt the rebounding early on was a huge, huge factor. There were even some possessions early on where we weren’t very clean offensively, where we made that initial run and got some separation, some of that came from some second shots. We got some kick-out threes just because we kept some possessions alive.”
Delta’s height advantage also translated into another statistical advantage as the Vikings made not a single trip to the free throw line Saturday. The Eagles buried 10 of their 12 attempts from the stripe, meanwhile.
“That’s big. We didn’t have much size. Going up against 6-5 you’re not going to get those calls when you’re going in among the trees unless you get it in to your trees yourselves,” Patrick explained. “I thought we went away from their pressure — even when we got it into Jace (Potter) we didn’t attack really. That’s stuff we’ve definitely got to work on. We’ve got to get a couple big guys. We haven’t had a big, big guy since Shane Drudge and those guys back 10-15 years ago. We’ve got a couple coming. Hopefully we can develop them and get ready.”
While Bryan scored a game-high 21 points, Josh Greenberg chipped in 10 for Delta. Valley got 11 points from Parkur Dalrymple — six of those coming on fourth-quarter threes as the Vikings chased late — and a team-high 12 points from Cameron Parker. Parker put up nine of those points in the first half and did a yeoman’s job defending Bryan, but after unsuccessfully attempting to take a charge in the second period, he never fully seemed to recover.
“He got hit in that first half. They didn’t call a foul, but when he went down he hit his head,” said Patrick. “Our trainer checked him, he didn’t get a concussion, but he got a bad concussion in football. I was a little worried about that, and he just kind of seemed out of sorts after that like he was a little worn out. But he was chasing (Bryan) all over the floor. Like I said, he held him to six points for 10 minutes of the first half until the last two inside-out threes.”
While Delta advanced to play host Marion, Valley bowed out after a surprisingly stellar season that saw a cast of five seniors come together following a 7-9 start to win eight of their last 10 games, giving their program its first sectional title since 2014 and Patrick his first as head coach in just his second year at the helm.
Next year’s squad will have to get it done without the services of Dalrymple, Parker, Wes Melanson, Jalen Shepherd and Dwight Conley, and they’ll be missed. But Patrick is also optimistic about what the future holds for his program.
“Next year we’ve got to have some guys step up. I thought this year would be a building year and just keep building and building, but we’ve had such a great year this year that next year Tanner (Trippiedi) and Jace and Jalen Potter, Rex Kirchenstien, Braden (Shepherd), Ross O’Connor, those guys are going to have to step up, work on it in the offseason to accomplish what these guys did,” he said. “And we’ve got an eighth grade group that’s pretty good, that puts a lot of time in, so hopefully we can one or two of those to step up and help us as well. As far as the long term future, it looks very, very good. Next year we’re just going to have to work really, really hard to match this.”