By Mike Deak
AKRON – Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball has become habitual, but in a good way. Since the team established itself as a perennial contender in the Three Rivers Conference and in the state tournament in the past decade, it has typically built around one player with a tremendous level of role players in support.
Two seasons ago, it was Sophie Bussard with a host of others willing to contribute however needed. One of those contributors was a bright-eyed Sidney Wagner, willing to take shots and charges with the best of them. After Bussard left for Division 1 Southeast Missouri State, the Lady Vikings were looking for their next Sophie.
Wagner said, “Watch me.”
For a guard listed in some programs as 5-8, Wagner posted numbers closer to those of a former six-foot Valley star Anne Secrest. Wagner finished her junior season with per night averages of 17.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 4.0 steals, all team-leading figures. Wagner shot 47 percent from the floor and dished nearly two assists to every turnover.
“I’m always trying to better myself with all my skills,” Wagner said. “Coming into next year I want to have no limitations meaning that I want to be a threat everywhere on the court by not only being able to drive but shoot off the dribble, using both hands and being a lock down defender which allows easy transition baskets. I plan on playing AAU ball this summer and working with my trainer to get these skills dialed in.”
Wagner would have been a fantasy superstar, finishing with Russell Westbrook-type numbers on the nightly. She had seven double-doubles, including a monster game against Rochester of 10 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists and eight steals in a war with the Zebras. Later against Southwood in a key TRC win, Wagner hung 17 points, 22 rebounds, six assists and five steals, and in a must-win at Manchester, her 21 points and 12 rebounds helped the Lady Vikings earn a share of the TRC title with Rochester and Northfield.
“Sidney has quickly become a player you have to account for at all times,” offered Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball head coach Chris Kindig during the season. “She can beat you in a lot of different ways and really has taken her game to another level. Without her, we don’t have nearly the level of success that we had this season.”
For the season, Wagner was only held to less than 10 points one time, and that was a loss at NorthWood that got away from Valley after the half. In the sectional rematch with the Panthers, Wagner had 18 points and nine rebounds in a statement game against the eventual Class 3-A champions.
“Our very first game was a team (Bremen) that had beaten us two years in a row so coming into that game we had lots of nerves and a lot to prove,” Wagner said, who finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and four steals in the 19-point win. “As the game went on we saw what we were capable of and pulled through knowing that we got this and ended up winning. Not only did we win that game but we beat them later in the season as well.”
Wagner was a regional qualifier in track as a sophomore in the 4×400 relay and was primed to help lead the Vikings again this spring. Wagner was a sprinter and also helped the team in both long jump and pole vault.