PLYMOUTH — Chris Kindig saw a few things from his Lady Vikings Tuesday he hadn’t seen yet this season, and he was glad he did.
Visiting Valley got great offensive balance from its players — including from one perhaps unexpected source — and the Vikings dug deep to claw their way back from a nine-point hole for a 65-61 bounceback win over host Plymouth Thursday night.
“I’m just really pleased with our second half and really proud of these girls. They hung in and showed some grit and determination,” said Kindig. “That’s kind of the first time I’ve really seen that all year where we really had to dig a little bit deep there and had some adversity and overcame it. This is a big win for us; it really is. That’s a quality Plymouth team, and you don’t come into this gym very often and get a win.”
Just five days after its lowest points production of the season in a loss to Goshen, Valley put up its second-highest points total of the year and did so in balanced fashion at The Rock.
Emma Craig put in a gutsy performance with 10 points in spite of illness, Sidney Wagner finished with 12, and Jillian Walls kept the Vikings in the game over a rough first half with 11 of her 17 points before the intermission. But the biggest and most surprising contribution was made by freshman Kaydence Mellott, who tallied a career-high 19 points off the bench.
Mellott never missed a shot, either from the floor or the line during a 10-point third quarter. Her backdoor cut and layup on a Wagner lob at the 4:20 stop of the period knotted the game up briefly at 38-all, although a 10-2 run by the hosts put Plymouth back out front at 47-42 headed into the fourth.
“Sixteen big points in the middle two quarters for us, and she hit some free throws down the stretch,” said Kindig. “We kind of got (Hayley) Backus into a little bit of foul trouble down the stretch and kind of had to go to a little bit smaller lineup. Obviously Kaydence came to play tonight.”
The Pilgrims led from the opening tip to the 3:50 mark of the fourth, when a Backus putback gave the Vikings a tentative, 48-47 lead. From there, the two teams traded leads twice before Sydni Weir’s pull-up triple from the wing — a look that was well-contested by Craig — fell true with 3.3 seconds remaining in regulation.
But with senior guard Claire Tanner sidelined after collecting her fourth and fifth fouls within a span of four seconds in the final minute of the fourth period, the Pilgrims began to struggle against Valley’s pressure in overtime. The Vikings capitalized with an 8-2 run to start the extra period, getting out front 63-57 and holding on for the win.
“It’s really deflating you play as well as well as you do in the fourth quarter, the girl tosses in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send it into overtime. You really don’t know what you get sometimes in overtime, but we were able to turn them over three or four times at the beginning of overtime and got ourselves that nice five- or six-point cushion and were able to hang on. We tried to give it away a few times,” said Kindig with a laugh.
While Tanner put up 14 for Plymouth, the home team got a game-high 24 points from junior guard Lindsay Janus. who knocked down 3-for-4 3-pointers against Valley. The Pilgrims canned a full 7-of-16 treys, but Valley was even more accurate from deep with 7-of-15 3s made at the game, including 4-of-7 triples by Walls and another 3-of-4 by Mellott.
Plymouth drops to 5-3 with its second loss in three games. Valley improves to 6-2 with the win. The Vikings will try to keep the momentum rolling with a Three Rivers Conference game at Wabash Saturday.
“If you would say I had to win one of the two games this week; is it going to be tonight or is it going to be Saturday against Wabash? I’m going to take Wabash any day because it’s a conference game,” Kindig said. “We only have one day to prepare for Wabash, and to be honest with you, I haven’t scouted Wabash all that much because — I know it’s cliche — but we take them one game at a time.”
Valley lost Tuesday’s JV game by a lopsided 57-24 margin. Molly Moriarty and Lilly Ault scored six points apiece to lead the JV Vikings. Taylor Delp and Kaylee Dragani finished with 10 points apiece to lead Plymouth in that game.