Valley puts 4 in double figures, but West Noble wins sectional final
Lady Chargers avenge earlier defeat, denies Lady Vikes first sectional since 2017
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
NAPPANEE — With his team ahead of West Noble 29-27 at halftime of the Class 3A, Sectional 20 final Saturday, Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball coach Chris Kindig asked his players what 27 times two is.
It’s 54. And he did not want the game to be played in the 50s.
His nightmares, unfortunate, came true, and Valley’s season is over.
Jazmyn Smith scored 22 points, and Mackenzy Mabie added 19 to lift West Noble to a 56-51 and their first sectional title since they beat Valley in the 2019 sectional final.
West Noble committed 24 turnovers but also made 20 of 24 free throws – they were a 59 percent foul shooting team for the season prior to Saturday – and held Valley to 26 percent shooting from the field. Valley made 8 of 36 3-point tries against a West Noble triangle-in-two defense that hawked Kaydence Mellott and Corinna Stiles but gave open looks to other players.
Lily Ault, Molly Moriarty and Kaydence Mellott scored 11 points each for Valley (17-8). Ault and Moriarty had three 3-pointers each. Stiles hit two treys and contributed a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Mellott, who is fourth in the state with 75 made 3-pointers, didn’t make a trey for just the third time this season but did make 9 of 10 free throws.
“I thought we got a ton of good looks really the whole game,” Kindig said. “Those looks were not coming to Kaydence Mellott, and that was the difference. And I have all the confidence in the world, and they’ve done it before, but I think Corinna Stiles was 3 for 11 from the 3-point line but a ton of good looks. Lily Ault, I think, was around that range and got a lot of good looks, and I’ve got all the confidence in the world in her too.
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of a couple things, but sometimes you have to hit shots to win basketball games. If you don’t, it’s tough to win.”
Perhaps symbolic of the night was in the final minute with Valley trailing 53-49. Mellott got loose for a transition 3-pointer after a Chesnee Miller steal and called for the ball while standing in the left corner. She rose up and feathered up a shot that went halfway down the well and popped out.
West Noble turned the ball over again, but Stiles missed a 3, and Moriarty missed on a tough angle off the glass.
Mabie then made two free throws with 20.9 seconds left, and after another Stiles miss, Alayna DeLong split a pair of free throws to make it a three-possession game at 56-49 with 11.2 seconds left.
West Noble (7-17) came into the sectional on an eight-game losing streak and ended it with their third sectional title in school history. The losing streak included a 45-27 loss to Valley at the West Noble tournament on Dec. 30 and two losses to Lakeland in January.
But they beat Lakeland 61-53 on Friday and avenged the Valley loss on Saturday. Only once all season prior to the sectional had they scored 56 or more points in a game.
Meanwhile, Valley had been 7-0 when scoring 50 or more points prior to Saturday. They had also been 6-0 in games decided by five points or fewer.
“The story of the game was their 56,” Kindig said. “Most of the time, when we score 51, we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
Smith, a 6-0 senior post, scored eight points against Valley in their first meeting. Mabie, a 5-4 junior guard, did not play due to illness.
In the third quarter the second time around, West Noble outscored Valley 18-9, and Smith and Mabie combined for all 18 points.
Smith, a 6-0 senior post player with ballhandling ability who wore a bulky brace on her right knee, scored on a post layup that put West Noble ahead for good at 31-29 with 5:28 left in the quarter. Then she scored a garbage layup after a Moriarty block to get the lead to four.
A short jumper in the lane on an inbounds play made 36-30 later in the quarter.
Miller hit a 17-footer, but Smith scored on a runner in the lane.
Ault hit a 3-pointer, but Smith scored on a driving layup, and after a Valley turnover on an inbounds violation, Smith hit a turnaround in the paint. When Mabie hit a 3 from the left wing, West Noble had their biggest lead at 45-35.
“I thought she was a lot more active than the first time we played them,” Kindig said of Smith. “She really made an attempt to get to the basket a lot more.”
Valley countered with a 10-2 run covering the third and fourth quarters. Mercedes Snapp’s 3-point play with 1.0 seconds left in the quarter started the rally. Mellott hit two free throws, Moriarty had a steal and a layup to make it 45-42 but missed a free throw trying to make it a 3-point play.
Sara Gross hit two free throws for West Noble, but Moriarty answered with a 3 to make it 47-45.
Madelynn Bottles got a layup on a press breaker, but Mellott scored on an air ball putback to make it 49-47.
After a Stiles steal, Miller missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2:03 left. Stiles fouled DeLong after the miss, and she hit two free throws to get the lead back to 51-47 with 2:02 left.
Two more Smith free throws made it 53-47 at the 1:36 mark, but Ault’s pullup in the lane made it 53-49 with 1:28 left.
West Noble coach Jeff Burns said Valley was “a good, scrappy team.”
“We had a lot of turnovers,” Burns said. “We average probably 30-plus, so this is a win for us. It’s been that kind of season for us.”
Valley started the season 0-4 but bounced back to win the Three Rivers Conference title and win two sectional games.
Kindig described the team chemistry as “great.”
“I wasn’t sure,” Kindig said. “Not a lot of varsity experience coming back. We knew that there were some JV players that had to step up. I thought early on we struggled a little bit with that, and part of that was because we didn’t have a lot of opportunities to play together over the summer as a group. But I thought our chemistry got better and better as the year went along. And honestly, we won some games that we probably shouldn’t have, but I think it was a credit to them playing together and really getting it done at the right time.
“I have no complaints. It was a fun year.”
Valley went on a 10-0 run in the second quarter to take a 25-19 lead before West Noble scored six straight points to tie the game. Mellott hit four straight free throws in the final 2:14 to give Valley a two-point lead at halftime.
West Noble will meet Griffith in a Jimtown regional semifinal at 10:30 a.m. this Saturday.
West Noble 56, Valley 51
WEST NOBLE (56) (7-17)
Mackensy Mabie 6 5-6 19, Sherlyn Torres 2 2-2 6, Sara Gross 0 2-2 2, Alayna DeLong 0 3-4 3, Jazmyn Smith 8 6-6 22, Alexia Mast 0 0-0 0, Tara Gross 0 0-2 0, Ella Stoner 0 2-2 2, Madelynn Bottles 1 0-0 2
TEAM: 17 20-24 56
VALLEY (51) (17-8)
Lily Ault 4 0-0 11, Kaydence Mellott 1 9-10 11, Molly Moriarty 4 0-1 11, Corinna Stiles 4 0-0 10, Mercedes Snapp 1 1-1 3, Chesnee Miller 2 0-2 4, Carlee Snyder 0 1-2 1
TEAM: 16 11-16 51
Three-point field goals:
West Noble 2 (Mabie 2),
Valley 8 (Ault 3, Moriarty 3, Stiles 2)
Total fouls: West Noble 18, Valley 19
Fouled out: DeLong (WN), :15.7, fourth
Turnovers: West Noble 24, Valley 13
Score by quarters
West Noble 15 12 18 11 – 56
Valley 15 14 9 13 – 51