Samuel Haanpaa's (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) fifth 3-pointer of the ballgame gave Valpo a 72-71 lead with just over a minute to play, but Oakland's Erik Kangas hit a 3-pointer on the Golden Grizzlies' ensuing possession, and the Crusaders could not regain the lead, falling 81-76 Thursday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) was called for an offensive foul while setting a screen on the next Valpo possession. Vova Severovas hit two free throws for the Golden Grizzlies after being fouled with 32 seconds to play, but McPherson answered with a quick layup to cut the deficit back down to 76-74.
Oakland's Rick Billings hit two more free throws with 27 seconds left, and the Crusaders would not get back to within one possession until Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) hit two shots from the charity stripe with two seconds to play. Johnathon Jones hit two free throws of his own after Igbavboa's makes to ice the game for Oakland.
Oakland jumped out to a five-point lead early in the ballgame, but a 11-0 run over a three-minute span gave the Crusaders a 15-9 lead at the 12:52 mark. The Golden Grizzlies cut the lead down to two with 5:45 left in the half at 19-17, but Valpo put together a 9-0 run to extend the margin to double digits for the first time. The Crusaders could not maintain that margin into the half, however, as Severovas hit a shot with three seconds left in the half to cap a 10-2 spurt and cut Valpo's halftime lead to 30-27.
The Golden Grizzlies continued to chip away at the Crusader lead, taking the lead back with 17:27 to play in the game. McPherson hit a 3-pointer with 14:54 to play to re-take the lead for Valpo, but the Golden Grizzlies clawed back out in front just over a minute later. Oakland would maintain the lead until Haanpaa started connecting on 3-pointers for the Crusaders, with his third one tying the game at 60 with 5:16 to play.
Derick Nelson answered with a triple of his own for Oakland, and after the two teams traded buckets, McPherson and Igbavboa hit back-to-back driving layups to give Valpo a 66-65 lead with 3:21 left. Kangas hit a jumper with 2:27 to play to give Oakland the 67-66 edge, but Igbavboa split a pair of free throws to tie the ballgame. Severovas followed with a layup on Oakland's next possession to set up the final sequence.
Igbavboa paced four Crusaders in double figures with a career-high 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting while also grabbing a game-high eight rebounds. McPherson added 16 points for Valpo, while Haanpaa hit five triples for 15 points and Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) added 11 points. Haanpaa also grabbed eight rebounds for the Crusaders. Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) led Valpo with four assists while committing just one turnover.
Shawn Hopes led the Golden Grizzlies with 22 points, with Severovas close behind at 21 points, including 11-of-13 makes from the stripe. Kangas added 14 points, including four 3-pointers, while Jones chipped in 13. Hopes led Oakland (9-9, 2-0 Mid-Con) with seven boards.
The Crusaders hit at a 55.8% (29-of-52) clip from the floor, their best shooting effort this season, but were plagued by 20 turnovers which Oakland turned into 21 points. Valpo connected on 9-of-23 (39.1%) 3-point attempts while holding the Golden Grizzlies to 6-of-18 (33.3%) shooting from behind the arc. Both teams hit nearly all of their free throws, with Oakland making 23-of-25 versus Valpo's 9-of-10 mark.
Valparaiso (6-10, 1-2 Mid-Con) looks to move back to .500 in conference play Saturday as the Crusaders play host to IUPUI. 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). Both the audio webcast and video webcast will also be available at www.valpo.edu/athletics.