Cumberland’s 20, Walls’ clutch plays lead Valley past Caston in OT
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
FULTON –- Tippecanoe Valley boys basketball coach Chad Patrick looked at all his JV players during a practice in preparation for their game against Caston and told them that there were only four healthy varsity players.
Logic dictated that one of the JV players would get a chance. Riley Shepherd, Landon Walters, Dominick Welk and Dylan Neese all got playing time. Senior Chase Miller also got some run.
But the one who took advantage the most of his opportunity was Cooper Walls.
Walls, a 5-7 sophomore, came off the bench to score nine points, including the 3-pointer
that put Valley ahead for good with 2:07 left in overtime, to lead the visiting Vikings past Caston 56-53 in overtime at the Comet Crater Saturday.
The diminutive Walls arguably had the game’s biggest rebound when he corralled Kade Zeider’s 3-pointer in overtime that could have tied the game.
Jessie Rock-Wolf fouled Walls with 1.8 seconds left. Walls missed the front end of a one-and-one from the line, but Caston had no timeouts left, and Rock-Wolf’s 70-footer at the buzzer brushed the underside of the net.
Nolan Cumberland played all 36 minutes and led Valley with 20 points. Braden Shepherd added 12, and Walls and fellow sophomore Brendyn Stump each hit three 3-pointers and scored nine points each.
Paul Leasure started for Valley but played less than five minutes and did not attempt a shot. Leasure, Valley’s leading scorer last year as a freshman, suffered a foot injury in practice prior to Valley’s Dec. 4 game against Knox. He was playing for the first time since the Dec. 1 opener against Argos.
Valley (1-2) was already playing without 6-7 center Dawson Perkins, who suffered an ankle injury against Knox, and Rex Kirchenstien, who was out due to a quarantine.
“We had to have somebody step up, and we’ve been challenging these guys all week,” Valley coach Chad Patrick said. “At one point in time in the week, I put the four guys that had played varsity and then the seven that hadn’t, and I said, ‘If you can count right, one of you has to play and step up.’ I knew Paul was going to give it a try, but I just hadn’t seen much, and he wasn’t there yet. And so I challenged them, and they all gave different efforts at times in practice and showed me spurts, but nobody did that. So that was an awesome performance by Cooper. He gave us huge, huge minutes and played amazing defense. … The littlest guy on the floor with the biggest rebound.”
Sam Smith scored 20 points, and Bryce Rudicel added 10 for Caston, who couldn’t hold onto a 17-point lead in the second quarter. The Comets lost their five straight and fell to 1-6.
Caston again played without guards Joey Spin and Cam Kline.
Rudicel’s free throw with 3:34 left gave Caston a 51-50 lead in overtime.
But Cumberland kicked out to Walls for the 3 that gave Valley a 53-51 lead.
Rudicel then missed, and D.J. Estep rebounded for Valley. Shepherd then buried another clutch 3 from the left side to give Valley a five-point lead.
Rock-Wolf scored in transition off the made Valley basket to cut the deficit to three.
Estep missed the front end of a one-and-one with 28.7 seconds left, and Caston rebounded.
Caston coach Carl Davis called timeout with 11.0 seconds left.
Zeider had a look at a 3. It was a long rebound, but Walls tracked it down.
The game turned into a scoring duel between Cumberland, Valley’s 6-3 wing, scoring off the bounce, and Smith, Caston’s broad-shouldered post, in the second half.
Cumberland’s lefty layup with 1:59 left in the third quarter gave Valley, who trailed 12-2 after one quarter and 22-5 at one point in the second quarter, their first lead at 34-33.
A sweet left baseline fade from Cumberland got the lead to three. Smith scored on a post turnaround.
Then Walls drilled a long 3 before Rudicel hit two free throws with 4.6 seconds left to make it 39-37 going into the fourth.
The fourth quarter then featured five lead changes. Zeider hit a 3 off a Rudicel assist. Caston led by one.
Cumberland hit a pullup in the lane. Valley led by one.
Smith scored on a post layup. Caston led by one.
Cumberland hit a runner in the lane. Valley led by one.
A Smith 3-point play on a putback of his own miss put Caston ahead by two, and he later hit another free throw to give Caston a 46-43 lead.
But Cumberland answered with another driving layup, and then he assisted on a Shepherd 3-pointer that put Valley back ahead at 48-46.
Rudicel hit a banker off the dribble to tie the game.
Cumberland answered again with driving layin to make it 50-48 with 12.8 seconds left.
Cumberland said that Caston’s switching man-to-man defense meant a Comet defender was always in his face if he thought about shooting from the perimeter. So he felt he had to drive to the basket.
“It felt good,” Cumberland said. “I just got momentum in the second half and just kept going. … Coach told me and a couple other guys we got to step up because we got guys with a lot of inexperience who had to play.”
Valley went to a fullcourt press, but Caston broke the press, and Rudicel found Smith for a baby jumper to tie the game again with 5.9 seconds left.
Rudicel stole the inbounds pass and then knocked the ball out of bounds off a Valley player with 2.1 seconds left.
After each team called timeout, Zeider launched a 3 for a potential win at the buzzer, but it missed.
The game was going to overtime.
“We were looking at Sam,” Caston coach Carl Davis said. “Obviously, we had two shots at it, a couple different opportunities to run something. We had multiple options on both of them, and obviously, we didn’t get a shot to knock down.”
Patrick thought his team’s fullcourt press helped Valley overcome the early deficit.
“The fullcourt press really hurt them,” Patrick said. “We just sped them up. Our offense was triggered by our defense at the end of the second quarter and then the whole second half. So we just talked about that at halftime, just keeping that pressure on.”
Said Cumberland: “It was all defense.”
As for Caston, Davis was asked if his team was better after losing to Carroll and Rossville the previous weekend by a combined 58 points.
“Absolutely,” Davis said. “I think it’s really easy with the world we live in to get caught up in the scoreboard and get caught up in what our record says, but if you look at where we were game one against Wabash or even last week against Carroll and Rossville, I think these kids have continued to grow. The things we’re working on in practice, we’re getting better at. And we just have to stay consistent in those things and continue to get better at the things we’re working on. There’s no question that this group is driven to get better and improve.”
Patrick said that Perkins and Kirchenstien would be back for the Peru game on Tuesday.
This was the first meeting between the teams since Valley beat Caston 46-22 in a holiday tournament game at Caston on Dec. 30, 2016.
Riley Shepherd is a 6-2 freshman who scored 24 points in a previous JV game.
Cumberland plays for the IABC Indiana Attack AAU team. Based out of Elkhart, the team’s owner and coach is Scott Francoeur, who is also the girls basketball coach at South Bend St. Joe.
Zeider added nine points, and Jake Paschen added seven for the Comets.
Caston was 6-3 in games decided by five points or less, or in overtime, last year. They are 0-2 in such games so far this year.
Caston athletic director Gina Hierlmeier was the Valley AD from 2018-20.
Valley 56, Caston 53 (OT)
VALLEY (56) (1-2)
Brendyn Stump 3 0-1 9, Paul Leasure 0 0-0 0, Braden Shepherd 5 0-0 12, D.J. Estep 1 0-0 2, Nolan Cumberland 9 2-2 20, Riley Shepherd 0 0-0 0, Cooper Walls 3 0-1 9, Landon Walters 0 0-0 0, Dominick Welk 1 0-0 2, Chase Miller 0 0-0 0, Dylan Neese 1 0-0 2
TEAM: 23 2-4 56
CASTON (53) (1-6)
Kade Zeider 3 0-0 9, Bryce Rudicel 3 3-4 10, Sam Smith 8 4-8 20, Jake Paschen 3 0-0 7, Jessie Rock-Wolf 1 0-1 2, Colby Pugh 1 0-0 3, Carter See 1 0-0 2
TEAM: 20 7-13 53
Three-point field goals:
Valley 8 (Stump 3, Walls 3, Shepherd 2),
Caston 6 (Zeider 3, Rudicel, Paschen, Pugh)
Total fouls: Valley 15, Caston 14
Turnovers: Valley 17, Caston 13
Score by quarters
Valley 2 13 24 11 6 – 56
Caston 12 14 11 13 3 – 53