Tamra Braun's (Savage, Minn./Savage H.S.) lay-in with 0.5 seconds left gave Valparaiso a come-from-behind 53-51 victory over Southern Utah on Saturday night in Cedar City, Utah.
Valpo trailed by five with less than two minutes left before rallying for the win.
The Crusaders built an early 18-12 lead with 7:59 remaining in the first half before Southern Utah scored seven unanswered points to take the lead. The game was tied at 28 heading into the final minute of the first half before back-to-back three-pointers by Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) and Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.), the latter coming as time expired, gave Valpo a 34-28 lead at intermission.
Valpo held Southern Utah to just 23.5% shooting in the first half and forced nine turnovers, but the Thunderbirds grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and converted them into 14 second chance points. The Crusaders shot 43.3% in the opening stanza and committed just five turnovers. Rietema scored nine first half points, while Janis Beal led Southern Utah with eight at the break.
A Rietema basket at the 16:18 mark of the second half pushed the lead to nine out of the locker room. The hosts answered with five of their own as Monique Pili drained an open three-pointer and Beal added a jumper. Beal's fourth triple of the game tied the contest at 42 with 8:14 remaining.
Cassie Warburton gave Southern Utah the lead with a three, and a pair of free throws by Beal pushed the lead to 49-44 with 4:59 to play to cap a 13-2 run. Katie Boone (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove H.S.) capped a 13:52 Crusader draught from the field with a three-pointer from the left wing to cut the deficit to two. Trailing by two, Rietema tied the game at 51 with a leaner in the lane with 49.1 seconds left. After forcing a miss, Valpo held for the last shot. Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.) fed Braun inside for the winning basket.
Valpo shot just 22.2% in the second half and 33.3% for the game. Braun and Rietema each led the Crusaders with 13 points. Rietema grabbed eight rebounds, while Braun registered four blocks. Boone added ten points for the Brown and Gold, while Meredith Baugher (Berea, Ohio/Berea H.S.) also grabbed eight rebounds.
Beal led Southern Utah (8-10, 4-3) with 19 points, while Warburnton added ten. Southern Utah shot just 28.1% from the floor for the game and committed 17 turnovers. The Thunderbirds outrebounded Valpo 47-37.
Valparaiso (12-7, 6-2) will return to the Athletics-Recreation Center on Monday evening as the Crusaders host Oakland. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m.