Despite four players logging 37 or more minutes with a shortened bench due to injury, Valparaiso rallied from a one-point halftime deficit to defeat Loyola (Ill.) 72-61 on Saturday afternoon at the Gentile Center in Chicago, Ill.
Jamie Gutowski (Crown Point, Ind./Andrean H.S.) scored 19 points, to lead the way for the Crusaders, while playing 38 minutes. Jenna Stangler (St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville H.S.) added 18 points, while Meredith Baugher (Berea, Ohio/Berea H.S.) came off of the bench to score 12 more, while grabbing a game high seven rebounds.
Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.) just missed a double-double, scoring ten points, while dishing out nine assists playing all 40 minutes.
Valpo jumped in front 9-2 three and a half minutes into the game before the Ramblers answered with an 11-2 run. That marked the first of nine first half lead changes. The rest of the half went back-and-forth, with Gutowski draining a three-pointer with ten seconds left in the stanza to draw Valpo within 33-32 at the break.
The basket started a 14-2 run that carried over to the first four minutes of the second half. Gutowski scored five and Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.) added four more to start the half. Loyola (3-8) again rallied, closing within two, 49-47, with 10:01 left in the game. Gutowski responded with a lay-in, and Myers and Baugher both hit shots to help push the lead back to ten, 57-47, with 6:03 left.
The Ramblers scored ten of the next 12 points to cut the deficit to two. Stangler made a pair of free throws and Myers drained a three as the shot clock expired to push the lead back to seven, 64-57, with three minutes left. The Crusaders then made free throws down the stretch to seal the victory and even their record at 4-4 on the season.
Mandy Mennella led Loyola with 17 points and five assists, while Meskhenet Lands added 16 points.
Valpo shot 47.5% from the floor for the game, including 50% in the second half, while holding the Ramblers to juts 31% in the second stanza after Loyola shot 54% in the first half.
The Crusaders committed just 12 turnovers, while dishing out 19 assists. Loyola committed 15 miscues.
Valpo will return to action on Tuesday night as the Crusaders play game two of their current six-game road trip. The Brown and Gold will battle Washington State at 9 p.m. CST in Pullman, Wash.