By Mike Deak
AKRON – It’s been a sectional preview recently, and Friday night was no different. For the seventh time in 11 years, Wawasee and Tippecanoe Valley have played in the regular season finale knowing each other will have play again in the first round of the sectional. And like so many of those showdowns of the past decade, neither team looked very motivated to show its cards.
In the grand scheme, Wawasee would cap the regular season Friday night with a 58-51 win at Valley. While not a throw-away game by any means, neither team looked particularly polished, notably the hosts in a devastating third quarter that saw a lead disappear for good.
A fadeaway three from Paul Leasure at the end of the half gave Valley a 26-21 lead, the Vikings feeling pretty good about its handling of Wawasee’s dribble-drive motives early on. That Leasure three, however, was about the last thing the very well-populated home crowd would celebrate the remainder of the night.
Wawasee would record six steals in a key stretch of the third that turned the game quickly around in favor of the Warriors. The first two saw Keaton Dukes and Caden Welty convert layups to take the lead, and then after Kam Salazar hit Mark Wiggs inside on a nice through pass, Wawasee recorded steals on its next three possessions, resulting in four points. At 37-28 heading into the fourth, the game had completely flipped in the visitor’s favor.
“That third quarter was brutal,” stated Valley head coach Chad Patrick. “We got outscored 16-2 in the quarter, and that won’t cut it heading into a sectional. We had a bad stretch, and just gave away 10-12 points. Three times in a row for three straight layups, you just can’t do that.”
Wawasee (10-11) would finish with 12 steals on the night, six by Salazar and three by Welty, who would add 10 points.
The Warriors had Dukes again pace the offense with 27 points on 9-15 shooting, and pull down 10 rebounds. With Valley trying to claw back into the game in the fourth, Dukes hit threes on back-to-back possessions from either corner of the arc to put the game out of reach.
Leasure had 22 points in the loss for Valley (7-15). Dawson Perkins showed he can and will create problems for Wawasee on the interior with eight rebounds and three blocks to go with his 15 points.
With the two slated to compete again Tuesday night in the first game of the West Noble Sectional at 7 p.m., Wawasee head coach Jon Everingham was optimistic his team could do it again.
“I think when you look at next Tuesday’s game, when you think about Plan A, Plan B and even Plan C, what did those one or two possessions look like, how did they execute based off what we’ve seen on film,” offered Everingham. “I know all of their players and we’ve seen tons of film. We’ll be ready to play better Tuesday. I think you’re going to see a better Wawasee team, and you better be darn sure coach Patrick is saying the same thing that we’ll see a better Tippy Valley team on Tuesday.”
The two JV teams concluded their seasons Friday, Valley using an 18-3 second half to blow out Wawasee 47-21. Riley Shepherd had 17 points and Cooper Walls 15 points to pace the Vikings while Carson Smith had 10 points and Grant Brooks eight points for the Warriors.