Valparaiso held a six-point lead late in Saturday's game at Western Michigan, but the Broncos fought back to force overtime and went on to down the Crusaders in Kalamazoo, Mich., 89-80.
The Crusaders grabbed their largest lead of the ballgame at seven with 3:38 to play after an Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) 3-point play, and the advantage was still six when Igbavboa took a feed from Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) and dunked it with 2:27 left. Western Michigan answered immediately, as Joe Reitz got to the foul line for two free throws to cut the lead to four.
Diebler split a pair of foul shots on Valpo's next trip, and Shawntes Gary cut the Crusader edge to three with a pair of free throws with 1:42 left. After a Valpo turnover, Derek Fracalossi missed a 3-pointer, but the Broncos grabbed the rebound and converted it into a 3-point play to tie the game with 1:09 left. Both teams missed shots on their final possessions in regulation to send the game to overtime, Valpo's third extra session of the season.
In the extra period, Reitz scored on WMU's opening possession to give the Broncos a two-point lead. Samuel Haanpaa (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) split a pair of foul shots for the Crusaders, and Igbavboa drove for a layup the next time down to give Valpo a 78-77 lead. Valpo could not find the basket for the next three-and-a-half minutes, however, and the Broncos took advantage, with back-to-back buckets from Reitz giving them a 3-point edge. WMU then clinched the game from the foul line, hitting all eight of its free throw attempts in the extra session.
The first half was tight throughout, with the largest Western Michigan edge coming at 33-28 with 5:59 to go in the half. The Crusaders responded with a 10-1 spurt to gain a four-point lead. Gary cut the lead to one with 45 seconds to go in the half, but the Crusaders successfully ran down the shot clock and got a driving layup from Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) to make the lead 45-42 going into the locker room.
Igbavboa led the Crusaders with a career-high 21 points, hitting nine of his 10 free throw attempts. Igbavboa also pulled down a team-high nine rebounds in 36 minutes before fouling out in the overtime period. Haanpaa added 19 points off the bench, nailing four of his six 3-point tries, while Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) chipped in 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists while committing just one turnover. McPherson also dished out four assists for Valpo.
Joe Reitz led Western Michigan (12-14) with 24 points, hitting just five field goal attempts while taking advantage of 18 trips to the free throw line, making 14. Reitz also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for the Broncos. Three other WMU players ended in double figures, as Gray scored 19 points, including seven free throws, while Fracalossi and David Kool chipped in 16 apiece.
Valpo shot 45.8% (27-of-59) from the field, including a 35% clip from behind the arc. The Crusaders also knocked down 19-of-24 (79.2%) of their free throw attempts, numbers that paled to the Broncos' 36-of-41 (87.8%) rate from the charity stripe.
Valparaiso (14-14) returns to the Athletics-Recreation Center for its final two Mid-Con home games next week. The two-game homestand will kick off with a key conference battle against Southern Utah on Thursday. Opening tip is set for 7:05 p.m., and all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.