Valparaiso came into Slicer Gym Thursday night led by 6’7 Indiana All Star Candidate Mason Jones (21 ppg) and 6’1 sophomore Jack Smiley (15.3 ppg). The pair scores nearly 65% of the Vikings 56 points per game.
Slicer coach Jordan Heckard put together a great defensive scheme, adding a diamond and two zone to the Slicers current zone and man to man packages. The idea was to force players other than Jones and Smiley to score. Kyle Kirkham was assigned to cover Jones and Rylan Kieszkowski chased Smiley.
La Porte jumped out to a 13-11 lead after the first quarter. Four different Slicers hit 3 pointers in the period and Tommy Samuelson added a free throw. Jones had 3 points in the quarter and Smiley was held scoreless. Caden Crowel stepped up for Valpo and scored 8 in the period for the Vikings.
Midway through the second quarter Jones picked up his second foul and went to the bench for the remainder of the half. The Slicers failed to take advantage of his absence and trailed 25-21 at the break . Malik Corley and Kirkham each had 7 points after two quarters.
Valpo scored the first basket of the third quarter to take a 6 point lead. The Slicers promptly ran off the next 7 points to take the lead by one. Ja’Meriyon Cross scored 8 points and Kirkham 5 in the third as the Slicers led 35-34 heading into the fourth quarter.
La Porte led 46-44 heading into the game’s final minute. Valpo fouled Cross with 44 seconds remaining. The senior, who was 1-4 from the free throw line up to that point, stepped to the line and calmly hit both shots to give the Slicers a 48-44 edge.
Valpo pushed the ball up the court, missed a shot but the rebound was tipped to Smiley who drilled a 3 pointer to make the score 48-47 with 29 seconds left. The Slicers inbounded the ball to Corley, a 90% free throw shooter, who was promptly fouled. Corley hit the pair to make it 50-47.
The Slicer defense kept the ball out of the hands of Jones and Smiley on Valpo’s ensuing possession. Conner McCall missed a corner three pointer that was rebounded by Kieszkowski. He was fouled at the 13 second mark. The 6’5 junior came up short on the front end of the one and one giving Valpo one more chance. Again the Slicers did not let Jones or Smiley get a look. Michael Ridley was forced to take a well defended, off balance, corner three. Kieszkowski pulled down the rebound and the Slicers had a 50-47 win.
Kyle Kirkham, who was named the Salisbury and Spence, Edward Jones Player of the Game led all scorers with 20 points. He was also the primary defender of Jones. Cross finished with 14 points, Corley 10 with Samuelson and Kieszkowski each adding 3 points. La Porte got hardnosed defense and rebounding from the trio and RJ Anglin, Brennan Balka and Dylan Salisbury.
Smiley finished with 14 points and Jones had 11. No other Viking reached double figures.
This was La Porte’s first win over Valparaiso since a 44-41 holiday tourney win in 2013. It was their first regular conference game victory over the Vikings since December 2007. The Slicers improved to 12-6 on the season and 2-3 in the DAC. Valpo falls to 9-11 and 2-3.
La Porte will host Kankakee Valley Saturday afternoon with tipoff scheduled at 1:30. As always the game will broadcast on 96.7 the Eagle pregame is scheduled at 1:15.
JV TEAM FALLS SHORT 53-46
Matt Miller’s Slicer Junior Varsity team lost a tough back and forth 53-46 contest to Valpo in Thursday evening’s opener. The Vikings led 12-9 after one quarter, the Slicers had a 24-20 half time lead. Valpo jumped to a 35-30 heading into the final quarter. La Porte tied the game at 41 in the fourth but were outscored 12-5 to end the game.
Freshman Sawyer Tonagel hit six three pointers for 18 points. Eli Taylor and Vann Warner each scored 8. Kevin Konieczny and Javelle Broome had 5 points. Gage Raymond finished with 2 points.
The JV team will tip off against Kankakee Valley at noon on Saturday in Slicer Gym.
Photos courtesy of Susan Anglin.