Vikings On High Note Headed To Sectional
AKRON – Tippecanoe Valley boys basketball coach Bill Patrick doesn’t hesitate for a minute about who the team to beat is in the sectional.
“NorthWood is by far at the top of the list,” said Patrick. “They have talent. Braxton Linville is tough and Dakiyron Fox is a strong player down low for them. In a lot of ways, they may be as good as they were last year or even better.”
Patrick knows first hand how good the Panthers, who won the sectional title a year ago, are. NorthWood beat his Vikings 71-44 back on Jan. 3 in the championship game of the Winning Edge Holiday Tournament.
The No. 8 Panthers, who are 18-2 with a game left versus Whitko on Feb. 27, headline the six-team field at the Class 3-A West Noble Sectional. NorthWood’s two losses this season have been to Warsaw and South Bend St. Joseph.
Valley, despite an inexperienced group, has performed well for their veteran coach. The Vikings are 13-8 with a home game versus Wawasee on Feb. 27 left to play. Valley had won five in a row before a 49-37 loss at Triton on Feb. 20.
“Considering how many players we lost from last year’s team (five of our first six), this group has maybe overachieved this season,” said Patrick, now in his 46th year overall on the bench. “They probably have played better than people expected.
“We’ve been up and down and not consistent enough at times, but that happens with an inexperienced team.”
The Vikings got a great draw in the West Noble Sectional. Valley received a bye in the seven-team field and will play either Whitko or Wawasee in a semifinal game on March 6 at 6 p.m. The Vikings beat Whitko 70-49 earlier this season and host Wawasee in the regular-season finale Feb. 27.
Patrick, who guided the Vikings to the sectional title two years ago, was happy with the play of his team late in the season.
“In our last two games (wins over North Miami and Northfield), we played about as well as we can play,” Patrick stated. “We shot the ball well and played good defense. The last four games we have been a little more consistent.
“The keys for us in the sectional will be to do a better job rebounding and to play good defense.”
Valley, which claimed at least a share of the Three Rivers Conference title at 6-1, is just 1-1 versus teams in the sectional. The Vikings lost to NorthWood and beat TRC foe Whitko 70-49.
Alex Thacker, who did not play last season, has had a great year to lead the Vikings. The senior is averaging right at 20 points-per-game.
“Alex is one of the best guards in the area,” said Patrick, who owns 742 career wins.
The Vikings have also gotten key production from the tandem of junior Neil Clampitt (13 ppg.) and Gavin Bussard. The trio of Alec Craig, Jared Littlejohn and Chandler O’Connor have all also made big contributions for Valley this season.
“Teams are still trying to key on Alex, but we’ve had some other guys like Neil step up and take some of the pressure off him,” said Patrick. “We have more scoring weapons now than early in the season.”
Class 3-A West Noble Sectional
March 3: 7 p.m.: Whitko (6-15) vs. Wawasee (10-10)
March 4: 6 p.m.: Fairfield (14-9) vs. Lakeland (2-19)
March 4: 7:30 p.m.: West Noble (6-14) vs. NorthWood (18-2)
March 6: 6 p.m.: Tippecanoe Valley (13-8) vs. Whitko-Wawasee winner
March 6: 7:30 p.m.: Fairfield-Lakeland winner vs. West Noble-NorthWood winner
March 7: 7:30 p.m.: Championship Game