Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.) hit a three-pointer to send the game into overtime, but Western Illinois made 10-of-14 free throws in overtime to give the Westerwinds a 56-52 victory over Valparaiso on Saturday evening in Macomb, Ill.
Western Illinois jumped in front 7-3 during the game's first seven minutes before Valpo hit a couple of shots. Meredith Baugher (Berea, Ohio/Berea H.S.) scored inside and Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.) hit a three-pointer from the right side to put the Brown and Gold in front. The Westerwinds answered with four straight free throws to retake the lead and held it for the remainder of the half.
Other than the two baskets, the Crusaders' offense struggled throughout most of the half though, as four times shot clock violations prevented Valpo from getting a shot off. Valpo started just 4-of-19 from the floor as well. The Crusaders' defense helped keep the Brown and Gold close though. The Westerwinds went 9:05 without a field goal midway through the half, and the Crusaders forced 13 first half turnovers.
Behind eight points from Jessica Cook, Western Illinois took a 15-12 lead into intermission. Valpo shot just 20% (5-of-25) in the first half while the Westerwinds connected on just 26.3% (5-of-19).
The Westerwinds scored the first four points out of the locker room to increase the lead to seven. Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) keyed five straight Valpo points with four of her own to pull the Brown and Gold within two, 19-17, with 16:12 remaining. Back-to-back triples by Myers and Katie Boone (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove H.S.) gave the Crusaders the lead back, 25-23, with 13:19 left. Myers three came from the right corner as the shot clock expired.
The game continued to go back and forth, with ten ties and five lead changes in the second half. Valpo led by one, 37-36, with 3:54 to play. Zane Teilane and Cook both scored for Western Illinois to put the Westerwinds up by three with 2:51 left. The lead remained three heading into the final minute. Myers drained a three from the right wing with 4.2 seconds left to tie the game and send it into overtime tied at 42.
Teilane opened the extra session with a pair of free throws to give the hosts the lead. Rachel Reed added a lay-in with 2:38 left to increase the lead to four, before Myers answered with another triple. Teilane again scored inside and then added a pair of free throws. Rita Castans split a pair of free throws to put the Westerwinds up six. Boone made two free throws with 22.5 seconds left but Cook answered with a pair of her own. Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.) scored on a lay-in with 11.3 left to close within four again. Boone hit a three with 2.7 left but it was not enough. Castans hit a free throw with 1.4 left to seal the win.
Boone led Valpo with 13 points and seven rebounds, while Myers added nine. Baugher grabbed 11 rebounds for the Crusaders, which shot just 31.0% from the floor.
Western Illinois (11-5, 6-0 Mid-Con) was led by Cook with 18 points, while Castans added 15. Teilane scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. The Westerwinds shot 36% for the game and 77% from the line.
Valparaiso (10-7, 4-2) will return to action on Monday evening as the Crusaders host IUPUI at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Tip-off is set for 5:00 p.m.