‘It’s going to take some time:’ Valley incorporating sophs to go with Wagner, Backus
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
“What summer?” Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball coach Chris Kindig answers rhetorically when asked how his team’s summer and offseason went.
It was his way of saying how the coronavirus pandemic has affected Valley going into the 2020-21 season. This has not been a typical offseason.
“After two weeks, our biggest concern is lack of basketball conditioning and team chemistry due to the limited amount of court time the girls have had over the last six to seven months,” Kindig said. We had several girls who participated in fall sports, so that also limited the amount of court time together. Getting the girls back into basketball shape will continue to be our focus for the first part of the year.”
Even though the offseason was relatively inactive and even though first-team all-Three Rivers Conference sharpshooter Jillian Walls and honorable mention all-TRC guard-forward Emma Craig both graduated, this has not drained Kindig of optimism. Kindig said Valley played much better the last two quarters of its scrimmage against Caston last week and then opened its regular season with a 50-45 win over Bremen Thursday.
“I do feel we have a big upside and can be a very good team by the end of the year,” Kindig said. “It’s going to take some time.”
While it might take some time for the team to develop, Sidney Wagner is already a first-team all-Three Rivers Conference player. The senior averaged 17.2 points per game and is also a top ballhandler and perimeter defender.
She began the season needing 425 points for 1,000 for her career.
“With Sidney, leadership as a senior, outside shooting and ability to distribute the ball has improved,” Kindig said. “In terms of outside shooting, this is very important for her game given her ability to get to the basket. Also, she will draw a lot of attention from defenses, so the willingness and ability to distribute the ball to our posts and shooters will be key for our offense.”
Senior Hayley Backus is the top frontcourt returnee. The 6-1 Backus is in her third year on the varsity.
“With Hayley, leadership and ability to finish around the basket looks to be greatly improved,” Kindig said. “Also, we are really looking for her to be a better post defender without drawing fouls.”
Ashley Butler is a third senior who Kindig said has become more of a vocal leader and who he calls a “defensive stopper” who will also aid Wagner with the ballhandling.
If the seniors are more established, this could be the year that the sophomore class makes its collective impact on the program.
Valley lists six seniors as part of the program. Two of them, Kaydence Mellott and Corinna Stiles, started against Bremen. Mellott scored 235 points last season, including a game against Winamac in which she made seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points.
Stiles, who is 5-11, will add to the frontcourt depth with Backus. Lily Ault, Rily Holloway and Molly Moriarty also got spare varsity minutes and figure to play bigger roles.
“As much as we will be relying on the seniors, our sophomore class will be filling spots open from graduation,” Kindig said. “We are looking for big years from Kaydence and Corinna. Both are very capable of being night-in, night-out double-double players. We need them to be consistent. We are concerned about our depth and looking for Lily, Rily and Molly to step up their games and fill those roles.”
Mercedes Snapp is the only junior in the program.
Valley also lists 5-8 freshman Macy Petersen on both the varsity and JV rosters. Three other freshmen – Chesnee Miller, Ava Smith and Sidney Nelson – will play JV.
“I like our freshman class, but it may take some time to acclimate them to the varsity level,” Kindig said.
The Lady Vikings will play six games before Thanksgiving. Five of them will be on the road, including games at Warsaw, Northwestern and Logansport in a five-day span. The stretch will end with their conference opener at Maconaquah.
Their first game after Thanksgiving is at home against Class 1A, No. 10 Oregon-Davis, a sectional champion from last year. Kindig said he is being “very patient” given the tough early schedule.
“We are working to be better day by day, week by week, and I believe again that we can be a tough out by tournament time,” Kindig said.