Valparaiso’s Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis,
Ind./Lawrence North) canned his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 27 seconds to
play to tie Friday night’s game at Milwaukee at 82 apiece, but Ricky Franklin
answered with a 25-footer with 2.4 seconds remaining to give the Panthers an
85-82 victory over the Crusaders. The
loss snapped Valpo’s four-game winning streak.
“I was really proud of
the way our guys fought in the second half,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We were able to come back from the ten-point
deficit, and a large part of that was due to Brandon’s leadership playing with four fouls
for most of the half. You just have to
credit Franklin; he’s been an All-League player
Franklin’s final triple ruined a solid second-half effort
by the Crusaders, who twice rallied back from double-figure deficits in the
final 20 minutes. Valpo trailed 42-32 at
the break, but scored 18 of the first 26 points in the second half, led by six
from Cory Johnson (Duluth,
Minn./Duluth East [Iowa State]), to forge back into a 50-50 tie with 13:54 to
play on a triple by Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston,
Victoria, Australia/Australian Institute of Sport).
Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) gave Valpo its first lead
of the second half when he connected on a 3-pointer on the Crusaders’ next
possession, but despite not giving up a field goal for the next five minutes, Valpo
would find itself on the short end of the score. Over that stretch, the Crusader offense went
stagnant while Milwaukee
got sent to the free throw line 14 times, going 8-of-14. When Jason Averkamp finally broke the
Panthers’ field goal drought, he connected on a 3-pointer, pushing the Milwaukee advantage to
63-56 with 7:52 to play.
An old-fashioned 3-point
play by Averkamp just over two minutes later pushed the Crusader deficit back
to double figures at 69-59 with 5:39 remaining.
But McPherson answered on the next two possessions, hitting back-to-back
3-pointers off passes from Brandon Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]), to keep Valpo within striking
distance at 69-65.
Milwaukee pushed the lead back to seven points with 2:08 to
play before Valpo made one final run at the win. Wood started the spurt with a driving layup
with 1:58 left and then came up with a steal and fast break on the next
defensive possession, getting fouled and converting two free throws to make it
80-77 with 1:22 to play.
The Panthers missed a
shot on their next trip and Johnson found Wood, who got ahead on the break and
converted another layup to cut the deficit to one point with 1:01 left. UWM’s JaRob McCallum hit two free throws with
37 seconds to play to push the lead back to three points and set up the final
exchange of triples.
The first half was a
tight back-and-forth battle for the most part, as Milwaukee jumped out to a 14-8 lead five
minutes before Valpo answered with eight straight points to tighten things
up. Johnson’s second triple of the game
tied the game at 32 with 4:58 to play in the opening half, but the Crusaders
would fail to score for the rest of the opening 20 minutes. During that stretch, the Panthers hit
contested 3-pointers on three straight possessions as part of a 10-0 run that
sent them into the locker room with a ten-point advantage.
“The first half was our
demise tonight,” said Drew. “We did not
come out to play as aggressively as we needed to, and that’s why we found
ourselves down ten. I am proud of the
fact we kept fighting. We tied it up
once, took some shots, and tied it up again.”
Johnson paced the
Crusader effort with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting while also grabbing seven
rebounds. McPherson knocked down five
3-pointers on his way to 17 points, while Wood put up 12 points and game-highs
of eight rebounds and six assists. The
Crusaders connected at a 47.5% clip from the field for the game and handed out
18 assists while committing just eight turnovers.
Milwaukee (13-9, 5-5
Horizon) was led by 22 points apiece from Franklin and Averkamp, the latter of
whom got sent to the foul line 17 times, converting 12 free throws. The Panthers ended the game 24-of-35 (68.6%)
from the charity stripe while the Crusaders were just 12-of-20 (60%).
5-5 Horizon) concludes its four-game road swing up in Green Bay on Sunday
afternoon, a game that can be seen live on Lakeshore Public Television at 1
p.m. As always, it will also be
available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan
City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso)
and can be seen on the Horizon League Network. Valpo’s athletic website, www.valpoathletics.com, will have links for live audio,
video and statistics.