Merrill Shoots Miami Past Valpo in Final Seconds
Saturday, December 11, 2004
Cindi Merrill's basket with 1.7 seconds remaining lifted Miami (Ohio) to a 54-53 come-from-behind victory over Valparaiso on Saturday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

The Crusaders have never defeated Miami in six attempts, but had played a pair of overtime contests against the RedHawks before today's last second deciding shot.

Valpo led for the first 39:27 of the contest before the RedHawks took their first lead of the game, 52-51, on an Amanda Jackson jumper with 33 seconds left. The Crusaders responded as Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) made a pair off free throws with 17 seconds remaining, setting the stage for Merrill's final shot.

The Crusaders jumped out in front from the opening tip. A 10-0 run over nearly four minutes pushed the lead to 12, 24-12, with 2:49 left in the first half as the Brown and Gold made six free throws during the stretch. Miami rallied before halftime, scoring the last eight points of the half, including Nicki Motto's basket as time expired as the teams went into the locker room with Valpo holding a 24-20 advantage.

Miami cut the lead to one, 29-28, four minutes into the second half before Valpo pushed the lead back to seven. The lead stayed between three and seven until Rietema's jumper at the 5:09 mark put Valpo in front 50-42. The basket would be the final field goal of the contest for the Crusaders. Five straight Miami points cut the lead to three with 2:19 to play. After a Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) split a pair of free throws, Jackson hit a basket with 1:28 remaining to cut the lead to one, setting the stage for the game's final minute.

Rietema led Valpo with 12 points, while Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.) added 11 including three three-point field goals. Jenna Stangler (St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville H.S.) added ten points and eight rebounds. Stangler has now scored in double-figures in nine straight games, including all seven this year. Braun also grabbed eight boards for the Brown and Gold.

Merrill led Miami (6-2) with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Jackson scored all 17 of her points in the second half.

Valpo (3-4) shot just 30.5% from the floor in the game, and committed only 11 turnovers, including just two in the second half. The Crusaders forced 18 RedHawk miscues which led to 15 Valpo points. Miami outrebounded the Crusaders 48-33, including 17-9 on the offensive end.

Valparaiso will now take a week off for final exams before returning to action next Saturday, December 18, when the Crusaders travel to Chicago to take on Loyola (Ill.). Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. at the Gentile Center.