AKRON – It was a tale of two halves Tuesday night, and the hare ran away from the tortoise.
NorthWood used a massive 27-2 run in the third quarter to space out what was otherwise a tightly contested boys basketball game, winning 61-40 over host Tippecanoe Valley.
Playing a man short with freshman phenom Paul Leasure out with influenza B, Valley had to reshape its offense with a team-leading 13.3 points per game at home in bed. For a half, Valley looked like it may have come up with a remedy for success.
Valley and NorthWood were tied at 16 heading into halftime, somewhat stunning because both teams came out, despite being potential sectional opponents in two weeks time, running their normal offensive and defensive schemes. Tanner Trippiedi had 13 points to lead Valley at the break.
That all changed as the second half began.
A pair of Ben Vincent steals flowed into a Brock Flickinger three, which saw an 18-16 Valley lead flip into a 23-18 Panther advantage. Vincent then came down and hit a three, and a Trent Edwards steal and dish to Vincent for a layup all of a sudden made it 30-20. Vincent hit another three, and a theft and layup by Cooper Wiens saw the bulge inflate to 35-20.
A Tayde Kiser three finally stopped the bleeding for Valley, but at 43-23, the damage was already done.
“I think in a game like this, we just had to keep grinding away,” said NorthWood head coach Aaron Wolfe. “Obviously, the first half wasn’t one of our strongest performances, but we kept ourselves in position. I thought we showed some poise coming out into the second half and they responded really, really well.”
Edwards was once again all over the court for NorthWood, finishing with a team-high 14 points, but providing seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks while shooting 75 percent (6-8) from the floor.
Vincent and Jamarr Jackson each scored 10 points for the Panthers.
Trippiedi would get to 23 points on the evening for Valley, but was bottled up for much of the second half until a late surge got him over the 20-point plateau. After the hot start, NorthWood held Trippiedi to 8-19 shooting and 0-4 from long range.
NorthWood also kept Dawson Perkins from getting started, limiting the athletic post to just four points and six rebounds. Perkins would block four shots and alter several others with his 6-7 frame.
“NorthWood is a tremendous defensive team and I knew they would give us problems,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Chad Patrick. “I thought Tanner let things come to him in the first half. We took some good shots and played defense. The start of the second half we took a couple of quick shots that we didn’t have to. Then all of a sudden we’re down seven points, and we start taking bad shots, nobody is ready to rebound, nobody gets back on defense and we’re in chase mode.”
The two teams have seen each other in three of the past four sectional tournaments, and with the Class 3-A Sectional No. 21 now just a five-teamer with the exclusion of Fairfield to 2-A, the prelude of a possible rematch is highly likely, but both coaches deflected any chess match workings.
“I think the combination of playing three games last week and then having to come on the road tonight to Valley, our kids showed some great patience,” Wolfe said. “They are a much improved basketball team and I thought in the first half Tanner did a nice job running their offense as well as controlling the tempo. It was a tale of two halves and their work in the first half forced us to have to respond in the second half. I’m pleased with how we responded to that challenge.”
Added Patrick, “We have a young team and just do what we do. We ran our offense like we normally do. Trying to change that just because a sectional opponent is coming in doesn’t help our young kids any. I thought it was more important to show our kids that we can play with them instead of showing hands. That’s exactly what we did in the first half. We played with them, and did it without Paul. Now our kids know that we can compete with some adversity against a quality opponent.”
NorthWood commanded the JV contest, 51-32. Brock Bontrager led NorthWood with 11 points and JJ Payne added 10 points. Tayde Kiser paced Valley with 10 points and Landon Walters finished with seven points.
NorthWood (14-6) will visit Elkhart Christian Friday night while Tippecanoe Valley (8-12) will host Triton Friday night.