An evenly-matched game didn’t fall Valparaiso’s
way Saturday night at the Athletics-Recreation
Center, as the visiting
Phoenix of Green Bay hit ten of its 12 free throw attempts in the end stages of
the contest to hold off the Crusaders, 64-58.
“I thought both teams played hard and both teams played well
tonight,” said Crusader head coach Homer
Drew. “We did a great job holding Green Bay scoreless for seven
minutes to get back into the lead, and then we had opportunities to take the
lead back late, if we could get a rebound or avoid a turnover. But you have to give Green Bay credit; they made almost all their
free throws down the stretch and got a couple big offensive rebounds.”
The Crusaders faced their largest deficit with 12:10 to
play, as a fast-break layup by Rahmon Fletcher gave Green Bay a 48-40 advantage. But the Crusader defense went to work,
holding the Phoenix
scoreless over the next seven minutes and lifting Valpo right back into the
Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence
North) connected on a layup out of the under-12 media timeout to cut the
deficit to six points, and Howard Little
School) split two pairs of free throws to make it a 48-44 game with 8:52
remaining. After the Crusaders forced a Green Bay turnover, Brandon
Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) got to the foul line and
connected on a pair of free throws.
On Valpo’s next offensive trip, McPherson made a nifty pass
inside to Cameron Witt (Launceston,
Tasmania, Australia/Launceston), who finished the layup to tie things up at 48
with 7:33 remaining. Nearly two minutes
later, Wood capped the 10-0 run with two more freebies, giving Valpo the 50-48
advantage with 5:49 to play.
The lead would swing between the two squads for the next
couple minutes, with McPherson finding Little for a layup with 3:24 left that
gave the Crusaders a 53-52 lead. Bryquis
Perine answered with a long jumper on Green Bay’s
next possession that gave the Phoenix
the lead for good.
would score the rest of its points from the free throw line, connecting on
4-of-6 over a 1:16 stretch to push its edge to 58-53 with 1:17 to play. McPherson answered with a pair of free throws
on Valpo’s next possession, and after Wood came up with a steal, the Crusaders
had a shot to tie. But a 3-point attempt
with 39 seconds left was off the mark, and although McPherson hit a triple with
15 seconds remaining to cut the lead to two, Green Bay hit its free throws and kept Valpo
from earning another chance to tie or take the lead.
A 10-0 run with four points apiece from Little and Cory Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth
East [Iowa State]) erased a seven-point Green Bay lead late in the first half,
but the Phoenix closed the opening stanza on an 8-2 spurt to take a 32-29 lead
into the break. Valpo took a slim
one-point lead twice in the early stages of the second half before the Phoenix
put together a 10-2 run of its own to take the 48-40 advantage nearing the
Wood paced the Crusaders with 18 points and eight rebounds
on Saturday, while Johnson chipped in 14 points, including an 8-of-9 effort
from the charity stripe. Little was the
third Crusader in double figures, closing the night with ten points, five
rebounds and three steals.
(11-5, 4-1) was led by 16 points from Perine, while Randy Berry put up a
double-double with ten points and ten rebounds.
got at least six points from seven of its eight players who saw action.
Valparaiso (6-9, 1-2)
returns to action on the national stage on Friday, January 8, as the Crusaders
will play at Detroit in a game televised on ESPNU. Opening tip is slated for 6 p.m. CST, and as
always, all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network
(WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WLPR, 89.1 FM, Merrillville) and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will
also have a link for live stats.