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Valpo Doubles Up Penguins in Horizon League Opener
Rashida Ray scored nine points in Valpo's conference opener. (Ray Acevedo)
Rashida Ray scored nine points in Valpo's conference opener. (Ray Acevedo)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Four players scored in double figures for Valparaiso, and the Crusader bench poured in 49 points on Saturday afternoon as the Brown and gold opened Horizon League action with a convincing 86-43 victory over Youngstown State at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

“We got good production from our bench today,” head coach Keith Freeman said afterwards.  “It was a good defensive effort.  We were able to take away the things that they do well.”

Valpo jumped out to a 23-point halftime lead, and behind career highs by Ashley Varner (South Bend, Ind./Washington H.S.) and Betsy Adams (Monticello, Ind./Twin Lakes H.S.) shot 51.8% from the floor for the game.  Varner finished with a game-high 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including a pair of threes, while Adams added 12 points on 5-of-9 from the floor and two triples.

“Ashley continues to get better for us,” said Freeman.  “Betsy’s a good player.  We never worried about her on offense, and she’s made monumental strides on the defensive end.”

Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) came off the bench to score 12 points, a season high, making 5-of-6 from the floor and Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) added 10 points and eight assists while committing just one turnover.  Hochstetler moved into seventh place all-time on Valpo’s career assist list and now has 281 over the past four years.

The Crusaders started slowly, making just one of their first six shots from the floor in the first three minutes.  The Brown and Gold heated up quickly though, making nine of its next 13 as part of a 13-0 run to build a 16-5 lead eight minutes into the contest.

After the Penguins cut the Valpo advantage to five, another 13-2 spurt put Valpo on top 29-13 with 6:25 to play and the Crusaders extended the lead to 43-20 at the intermission.

A 10-1 run out of the locker room over the first two minutes of the second half pushed the lead over 30 for the first time and the Crusaders used another late 13-2 run to cruise to a victory in their conference opener.

Varner also grabbed eight rebounds, including six on the offensive end, to lead Valpo to a 48-29 advantage on the glass.  Farris, Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.), and Katie Emig (Farmington Hills, Mich./Birmingham Marian H.S.) each hauled down seven boards on the afternoon.

Valpo’s defense limited Youngstown State to just 23.7% (14-of-59) shooting from the floor, including 1-of-10 from beyond the arc.  Tiara Scott led the Penguins with 13 points while Jaquetta Westley added nine.  Ashley Pendleton had a game-high seven rebounds for Youngstown State (2-10, 0-1 Horizon League).

“We did a good job contesting shots and getting to the boards,” concluded Freeman.

Valparaiso (6-5, 1-0), having moved back over the .500 mark, will return to action on Monday evening to close out the homestand with a 7:05 p.m. contest against Cleveland State.  The game can be seen live online through the Horizon League Network.

Game Notes: Varner made her first start of the season … Valpo is now 2-0 in Horizon League openers and has won six straight conference openers dating back to the Mid-Continent Conference … Rashida Ray (Fort Wayne, Ind./Harding H.S.) scored her first nine points of the season, making 3-of-5 from the floor … Varner has increased her career high in each of the last three games … this was the first win of the season for the Crusaders when starting before 5 p.m. … Stephanie Thomas (Avon, Ind./Avon H.S.) made her first appearance of the season, playing six minutes and tying her career best with two points … Youngstown State leads the all-time series 13-11 but Valpo has won three of the last four meetings between the two schools.

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