Valparaiso finished off its non-conference schedule with a 66-60 victory over Dartmouth on Thursday evening in the consolation game of the Blue Sky Classic held in Hanover, N.H.
For the second straight night, the Crusaders started slowly shooting the basketball. Valpo made just 3 of its first 14 shots from the floor, before a Jenna Stangler (St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville H.S.) basket at the 8:42 mark snapped a six-minute draught. Jamie Gutowski (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point H.S.) followed with a pair of three-pointers sandwiched around a conventional three-point play by Katie Boone (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove H.S.) spurred a 15-3 Valpo run that gave the Brown and Gold a 26-20 advantage with 5:45 remaining in the first half.
The Crusaders took a 32-28 lead into the locker room, as Gutowski connected on 5-of-8 in the first half, including three treys for 13 points. Boone and Stangler each added eight for Valpo, which finished the half shooting 42.9%, as the Brown and Gold finished the half making 9 of its last 14 shots. The Crusaders also held a 22-15 advantage on the glass as Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) grabbed eight first half boards.
Ashley Taylor led Dartmouth at intermission with ten points as the Big Green shot 37.9% in the first half.
Dartmouth came out of the locker room and tied the game at 34 after a lay-in by Sydney Scott. Stangler answered on the next possession with a three-point play to put the Crusaders back in front. The senior scored nine of the first 11 Valpo points of the second half. Braun converted on a three-point play inside to put the Brown and Gold up 47-39 at the 11:48 mark.
Triples by Jeannie Cullen on back-to-back possessions cut the lead to five, 52-47, with 6:25 remaining before Braun went to work inside. Four straight free throws and a basket in the lane by the 6'4" center gave Valpo a 58-47 advantage with 3:50 left, the Crusaders largest lead of the game. Braun scored ten straight Crusader points over a 3:39 stretch as Valpo maintained its lead, 62-53, heading into the final minute.
Jeannie Cullen drained her fourth triple of the second half to cut the lead to six. Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) made a pair of free throws for the Brown and Gold, and Angie Soriaga answered with a basket with 46.9 seconds left to cut the lead back to 64-58 but Valpo hung on for the six-point win, 66-60.
Stangler led Valpo with 18 points, ten in the second half, while grabbing nine rebounds. She was also named to the All-Tournament Team. Braun recorded her second double-double in three games with 17 points and 13 rebounds. The sophomore scored 15 second half points. Gutowski was held scoreless in the second half and finished with 13 points. Boone finished with eight points and dished out seven assists without committing a turnover.
Cullen finished with 18 points for Dartmouth (3-6), 16 in the second half, while Taylor added 14 for the game.
Valpo committed just nine turnovers for the game, while forcing 14, leading to 20 Crusader points. The Crusaders' bench outscored the Big Green's 25-9.
With the win, Valpo improves to 3-0 on the road this season.
Valparaiso (6-5) will return to action on January 3, as the Crusaders open Mid-Continent Conference play against Centenary. Tip-off in Shreveport, La. for game five of Valpo's six-game road trip is set for 7 p.m.