Playing the final game of a six-game, 7,899 mile road trip, Valparaiso went into Rochester, Mich. and defeated Oakland 68-63 on Wednesday evening.
Jenna Stangler (St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville H.S.) made 9-of-12 from the floor and scored 23 points, while grabbing eight boards to lead Valpo to victory.
With the game tied early, Valpo scored seven straight points, capped off by a Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.) three to put the Crusaders up 18-11 at the 13:30 mark as Valpo hit on seven of its first 11 shots from the floor. The Golden Grizzlies cut the lead to two, 26-24, with just over five minutes remaining as Petra Manakova and Jayme Wilson each scored a pair of buckets.
Valpo immediately pushed the lead back to seven after Stangler scored inside and Jamie Gutowski (Crown Point, Ind./Andrean H.S.) hit a triple.
The Crusaders finished the half with a flurry, scoring the final eight points topped off with Meredith Baugher's (Berea, Ohio/Berea H.S.) old-fashioned three-point play with 3.0 seconds left in the stanza to give Valpo a 39-27 lead at the break.
Valpo host a sizzling 56% from the floor in the first half, as Stangler was a perfect 4-for-4. The senior had ten points at intermission.
Stangler scored Valpo's first six points of the second half, but Oakland used a 10-2 run to close within five, 45-40, at the 11:23 mark after a Wilson three. The lead was still five inside of eight minutes when Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) scored inside and was fouled. A basket by Stangler pushed the lead back to ten with six to play.
The lead went to 12 as Valpo's defense held the Golden Grizzlies scoreless for 5:57 before Wilson scored in the lane with 3:24 to play. Oakland went on a 9-0 run to close within 60-57 with 1:37 to play. After a Crusader miss, the Golden Grizzlies had a chance to cut the lead to one or tie, but Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.) stripped Anne Hafeli of the ball in the backcourt, laid it in and was fouled. After an Oakland miss, Bechtold, at 5'4" grabbed the board and was fouled. Her converted free throws put Valpo in front by eight with 53.1 seconds to play.
Haffeli answered with a three-pointer to cut it to 65-60 ten seconds later. Oakland got a steal but missed inside twice. Stangler made one of two free throws. Haffeli came back down, drove to the lane, scored, and was fouled to cut the lead to three with 19.6 seconds left. After the Crusaders missed from the line, Oakland had a chance to tie, but Hafeli's triple from 22 feet missed left. Stangler made two free throws to ice the game, as Valpo ended its six-game road trip with a 5-1 mark.
Bechtold tied her career high with 17 points and dished out eight assists for the Brown and Gold. Braun added 11 for the Crusaders, which shot 50% from the floor for the game.
Wilson led Oakland (9-4, 1-1 Mid-Con) with 18 points, while Hafeli added 17 more. Petra Manakova scored ten, while Amanda Batcha grabbed a game-high 11 boards. Valpo held the Golden Grizzlies to just 39.4% shooting from the floor.
Valparaiso (8-5, 2-0) will return to the Athletics-Recreation Center for the first time in nearly a month on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders entertain Oral Roberts. Tip-off is set for 2:05 p.m.