AKRON – Bill Patrick, by his feisty, competitive nature, is quick to point out that he does not want to lose any game he coaches.
He admits though that his Tippecanoe Valley boys basketball team understands the special significance of one annual foe on the Vikings’ schedule.
Whitko High School.
The school where Patrick spent 24 seasons as coach in his illustrious Hall of Fame career.
The Vikings shook off a slow start and sickness Friday night to whip the Wildcats 71-41 in the Three Rivers Conference opener for both squads.
The victory was the 699th for Patrick, now in his 15th year at Valley and 44th overall. He will try for win No. 700 versus Fairfield next Friday in the opening round of the Valley Holiday Tournament.
“I don’t want to lose to Whitko, but I don’t want to lose to any team we play,” said Patrick Friday night. “But, our kids know. They know the next practice would not be fun if we lost to Whitko. They understand that I still live in that community.”
Patrick spent his first 29 seasons overall as a head coach in the Whitko school system. He coached at Sidney High School one year, then four at South Whitley High School and then 24 more at Whitko High School. He went 478-180 in those 29 years, including winning 400 games at Whitko. Patrick resigned at Whitko following the 1994-95 season after a disagreement with the administration there and was hired by Valley in 1998.
The Vikings, who had several players ill this week, used a huge second quarter Friday night to win its sixth straight game since losing at Warsaw in the season opener. Valley turned to pressure defense to ignite its transition game in the pivotal period. The Vikings erased an 8-6 deficit after the opening stanza with a 27-11 second-quarter onslaught.
Sharpshooter Nick Kindig fueled the Valley offense in the second quarter. The senior guard sparked a 13-0 run with nine points in the stretch as the Vikings turned a 13-11 deficit into a 24-13 lead. Kindig canned 15 of his game-high 22 points in the second period of play. The Vikings also took advantage of 10 Whitko turnovers in the frame, many forced by traps.
“The turnovers hurt them,” said Patrick of the Wildcats, who had 25 miscues in the game. “We were able to put pressure on the ball and trap in that second quarter. Nick can get on a roll like that. He got open and we got the ball to him.
“We were not ready to play and did not play well in the first quarter, but we played very well tonight in spurts. You have to be fairly happy with the way we played considering we had players out sick Wednesday and Thursday.
“We still need to get a lot better. We need to get more consistent defensively and become a better rebounding team. Our half court offense is still not smooth and there’s too much one-on-one. The six teams we’ve beaten all have losing records. We’ll find out next week. Fairfield is a good team.”
The Vikings blew the game open with a 21-9 edge in the third quarter. The loudest cheer of the night was provided by Logan Britton at the end of that period. The 6-4 junior banked in a shot from over half court as the horn sounded to end the stanza.
Multi-sport star Tanner Andrews had his second strong game of the week with 16 points Friday night for Valley. Andrews scored all 18 of his points in the second half of a 49-40 win at Peru Tuesday evening.
Chainey Zolman added seven points for the Vikings, who had 11 different players score in the conference victory.
Alex Stoddard scored 14 points and Stephen Bennett 10 for Whitko, which drops to 1-6 on the season.
“We got off to a great start and they made a run and we were not ready and couldn’t respond,” said first-year Whitko coach Scott Wessel. “No question it was our turnovers. That’s been the case in all of our losses this season. We’re averaging 21 turnovers a game and we have 26 tonight.
“We’re not a great ball handling team. We have kids being thrown into the fire now. It will help us in the long run, but right now we’re learning. Our kids need to understand that.
“It’s taking time and we have to understand where we’re at right now. We’re being patient with them.”
Patrick was one of 19 persons saluted Friday night prior to the varsity game as the newest group of inductees for the Kosciusko County Basketball Hall of Fame. The first coach tabbed for the Hall is now 699-275 overall in his career, making him the fifth winningest boys basketball coach in state history and second among active coaches. Patrick, who had 39 straight winning seasons to begin his career, is 221-95 in his 15th season at Valley.
Valley dominated the junior varsity contest with a 51-19 win. Neil Clampitt scored 12 points and Gavin Bussard 10 for the Vikings. Devin Adkins led Whitko with eight points.
Valley (6-1, 1-0) plays Fairfield Friday at approximately 7:30 p.m. in its own tourney. NorthWood faces Rochester in the 6 p.m. opener. The consolation and championship games are scheduled for Dec. 22 at 6 and 7:30 p.m.
Whitko (1-6, 0-1) hosts Plymouth Wednesday night.