VALPARAISO — There were some moments.
Jessica Gast was finding increasingly acrobatic ways to drop shots into the basket down low, and Valparaiso was enthusiastically headed into the locker room with a 10-point lead in the nightcap of the four-game Valparaiso Tip-Off Classic on Saturday night.
The Vikings were hitting the Gast, the 6-foot junior post, and Fishers looked simply gassed.
By the end of the third quarter, however, the visiting Tigers were accelerating, and the host Vikings were Googling the number for roadside assistance.
Fishers started a 14-0 run at the end of the third and came back to beat Valparaiso 50-44, ending a day in which the Vikings and Lake Central went a combined 0-4 while Fishers and Hamilton Southeastern each picked up a pair of wins.
“The day kind of wears on you at the end,” Valparaiso coach Candy Wilson said. “We played three quarters of great basketball, but you’ve got to play four quarters and not just three.”
The Vikings led 28-18 and 34-24 near the end of the third quarter before Fishers ratcheted up the intensity and began playing five times as lively as it had played all evening.
Fishers point guard Toni Grace scored 10 of her 14 points in the fourth, and Skylar Fulton added 10 of her 15, including back-to-back 3-pointers that changed the lead from 34-32 in favor of the Vikings to 38-34 for the Tigers. Fulton's 3 with 6:11 to go in the game gave Fishers its first lead since a 12-11 advantage in the second quarter before Gast and Ariana Gerdt got Valparaiso comfortably ahead.
Two free throws with 4:28 left in the game were Valparaiso’s first points of the fourth quarter, but by then the Vikings were heavy-legged and rushing offensively, leading to fast break points and an eventual double-digit lead for the Tigers.
Valparaiso was 10-for-24 from the free-throw line in the six-point loss.
“I was proud of the kids in the first half, but we came out and let them score twice in 10 seconds, and (the Tigers) were fired up,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to get our younger kids used to what we do. We’ve got a lot of energy and talent, but we’ve got to use it in the right way at the right time. Experience is something you can’t rush.”
Gast led the Vikes with 15 points in the nightcap, and Gerdt had 11, all in the first half.
Valpo (2-2) had suffered its first loss of the season in the morning opener via a 72-42 loss to state-ranked No. 4 Hamilton Southeastern.
The Vikings, who trailed 23-11 after one period, were led by 12 points from Taelynn Oelling and nine by Gerdt.
Lake Central, meanwhile, also allowed Fishers to make a fourth quarter comeback to cap the morning doubleheader and then came out flat in the opener of the evening doubleheader and never got close to Hamilton Southeastern.
Fishers outscored Lake Central 11-4 in the fourth quarter of the morning game. Grace had 13 to lead the Tigers.
“Our toughness needs to improve,” L.C. coach Joe Huppenthal said. “We don’t have the ‘nasty’ yet. I’m talking about the good ‘nasty’ where you have a nasty attitude and apply it to playing defense and getting rebounds and loose balls.”
The Royals (4-0) led 15-4 and then 20-5 in the first quarter as the Indians (1-3) couldn’t catch up to Hamilton Southeastern’s ball movement or get much going against an intense defense.
L.C. played point-for-point with Hamilton in the second quarter by beating the Royals’ pressure several times and converting lay-ins.
“The reason we play these games is to get better,” Huppenthal said. “Are we tourney-ready? No. Do we have a bunch of areas where we need to improve? Yes. These games expose your weaknesses, but this what makes you better.”
Lauren Ladowski led the Indians with 13 points in their second game and tied Rachael Robards for the team lead in points against Fishers with nine.
Sara Zabrecky saw her first few minutes of action this season after a nagging foot injury cost her appearances in L.C.’s first three games.
“We’ve got to go back home and figure it out,” Huppenthal said.