In a back-and-forth affair that featured eight ties and 15 lead changes, it was Valparaiso which closed out the game with a flurry, as the Crusaders put together a 16-4 run over the final 4:30 to rally for the victory over Green Bay Saturday night at the ARC, 82-73.
“I was very proud of our guys for the way they fought tonight,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We really needed to bounce back after a tough loss on Thursday night, and tonight, we did a great job of finishing the game and earning the win. Our bench players deserve a lot of credit, as they came in and gave us solid minutes tonight, allowing us to rest the starters at points so they could be fresh in the final minutes.”
The second half was tight throughout, with four ties and 11 lead changes. Neither team led by more than four points for the first 13 minutes of the second stanza, until Green Bay’s Mike Schachtner got open for a layup with 6:24 to play to give the Phoenix a 65-60 lead. But Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) answered on Valpo’s next possession with a 3-pointer off a pass from Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) to cut the lead back down to two points.
The teams traded baskets for the next couple minutes, with a layup by the Phoenix’s Bryquis Perine giving Green Bay a 69-66 lead with 4:39 remaining. Once again, however, Loyd found an open Crusader, as the senior hit a cutting Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) for a layup to cut the deficit to one point and spark the Crusaders’ game-ending run.
Two possessions later, the seniors hooked up once again, as Loyd found Huff for another triple to give Valpo the 71-69 lead. The defense then came to the forefront for the Crusaders, as it forced back-to-back Phoenix turnovers, with Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) converting a layup after the second miscue to extend the lead to four points.
After two more defensive stops, it was again the senior connection for the Crusaders that stepped up, as Huff threw a perfect ¾-court pass to Loyd on an inbounds play for a breakaway basket that made it a 75-69 ballgame. Green Bay would cut the lead back down to four points, but Valpo put the game away at the charity stripe, hitting 5-of-6 free throws in the final seconds to secure the victory.
Samuel Haanpää (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) single-handedly jumpstarted the Crusaders Saturday, scoring 17 points in the game’s first six and a half minutes. But Green Bay did not let Valpo run away in the opening period, eventually taking the lead midway through the stanza. The Phoenix looked like they would go into the break with a 3-point lead after Huff missed a triple on Valpo’s final play of the half. But the rebound came right back to Huff, who fired an 18-footer just before the horn that went in, cutting the Green Bay advantage to 36-35 at the break.
Haanpää finished the game with a team-best 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Huff poured in 16 of his 18 points in the second half, while Igbavboa chipped in 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. The Crusaders handled the ball extremely well on the night, dishing out 17 assists and committing just five turnovers. Loyd led the way with seven helpers and no miscues, while McPherson handed out four assists and did not commit a turnover.
“I was very pleased with our ball-handling and decision making tonight,” said Drew. “For our two point guards (Loyd and McPherson) to combine for 11 assists and no turnovers is incredible.”
Schachtner led all players with 34 points and was a perfect 7-of-7 from behind the 3-point line. Randy Berry added 10 points for Green Bay (9-7, 3-3 Horizon), while Terry Evans pulled down a game-best 11 rebounds.
Valparaiso (12-5, 3-2 Horizon) hits the road for a two-game league swing next weekend, kicking off the road trip at Youngstown State on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 6:35 p.m. CST, 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; WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell) or online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. The game can also be seen online through the Horizon League Network.