Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) posted her 7th double-double of the season, including a career-high 16 rebounds, as Valparaiso defeated UMKC 69-48 on Sunday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament to avenge a loss to the Kangaroos in last year's first round.
With the win, Valpo (16-12), the tournament's fourth seed, advances to the Mid-Con Semifinals on Monday afternoon against regular season champion and top-seeded Western Illinois beginning at noon.
With Valpo holding an early 9-7 lead, the Crusader defense helped to spur on the offense. The Brown and Gold held the Kangaroos without a field goal for more than seven minutes while increasing the lead to 15-7. UMKC closed the gap with back-to-back three-pointers from Leigh Mead, the second making it a three-point game, 17-14, at the 7:54 mark.
Valpo pushed the lead back to eight at the 3:00 mark as Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) scored twice in a row. The junior forward had 14 points and six boards in the first half for the Crusaders. A three-pointer by Jamie Gutowski (Crown Point, Ind./Andrean H.S.) with 58 seconds left increased the lead to 11 before Valpo took a 31-22 lead into the locker room.
Braun grabbed eight first half rebounds, as Valpo outboarded the Kangaroos 19-12 in the first half, including 11 on the offensive end. The Crusaders turned the ball over just three times in the opening 20 minutes while forcing eight mistakes from UMKC.
Stephanie Brown scored the first six points out of intermission for the Kangaroos as UMKC closed to within 33-28. Two free throws by Brown made it 38-36 with 10:04 to play before Braun answered with a traditional three-point play. The lead extended to seven on back-to-back baskets by Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.) the second on a steal and score. Rietema then scored on a putback and within two minutes the lead was back to nine, 47-38.
A putback and free throw by Braun to complete yet another three-point play pushed the lead to 14, 56-42 with just over five minutes to play. Gutowski drained a three on the next possession to make it a 16-point advantage and Valpo was onto the semifinals.
Braun finished the game with 18 points and 16 rebounds while blocking four shots and Rietema added a game-high 22 points while grabbing eight boards. Gutowski also scored 13 points for the Brown and Gold.
Brown paced UMKC (10-18) with 13 points and 12 rebounds while Brittny Picconi added nine points.
Valpo finished the game with a 42-34 edge in rebounding, grabbing 18 offensive boards. The Crusaders shot 37.1% for the game, including nearly 43% in the second half, while committing just seven turnovers for the game. The Crusaders held the Kangaroos to just 32.6% shooting and forced 16 turnovers.
The Crusaders have now won seven of their last eight games in the Mid-Con Tournament and nine of their last 11.