Valparaiso shook off a slow start with 54% shooting in the second half on Monday evening to post a 65-47 victory over Southern Utah at the Athletics-Recreation Center in the regular season finale for both schools.
The Crusaders led by just five, 26-21, at halftime, but scored the first 10 points of the second half to break the game open. Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) scored seven points during the run, capped with a three-pointer at the 15:44 mark to increase the lead to 15.
Southern Utah (9-19, 5-11 Mid-Con) cut the lead to 10 with 14 minutes to play, but would not get any closer the rest of the way. Aimee Litka's (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph's H.S.) triple with just over nine minutes remaining pushed the lead to 18 and the Crusaders were able to coast to the finish.
The first 20 minutes saw the game remain close throughout. Valpo jumped in front by six, 10-4, only to have the Thunderbirds tie the contest at 12. Back-to-back triples by Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) and Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) helped push the lead back to six, only to see Southern Utah close within one again. An 8-2 run right before half by the Crusaders helped give them the five-point halftime advantage.
Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) led Valpo with 13 points and seven rebounds while moving into ninth place on Valpo's career scoring list with 1,082 points. Rietema and Farris each added 11 points while Hochstetler dished out six assist without a turnover as the Crusaders won their fifth straight game for the second time this season. Rietema also had seven rebounds, moving into 10th place on the career rebounding list with 576 boards.
Valpo shot nearly 48% from beyond the arc (11-of-23) and outrebounded Southern Utah 39-33 in the victory.
Julie Stradling led the Thunderbirds with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Valparaiso (19-10, 11-3) wraps up the regular season finishing in second place in the Mid-Continent Conference and will be the number two seed in the Mid-Con Tournament which begins on Saturday. The Crusaders will face these same Thunderbirds, the tournament's seventh seed, at 2:30 p.m. at the John Q. Hammonds Arena in Tulsa, Okla. All the action can be heard live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) or online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.