Valparaiso rallied from a 17-point deficit, Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.) hit a three-pointer with 3.8 seconds to force overtime, and the Crusaders defeated Kent State 66-62 in the first round of the National City Bank Xavier Invitational on Friday afternoon in Cincinnati, Ohio.
It was the second time in a week Valpo forced overtime after a big deficit, as the Crusaders also went to double-overtime before falling Monday at Bradley.
Valpo started off slowly, committing turnovers on three of its first four possessions as Kent State opened up a 6-0 lead in the game's first minute. Valpo tied it at six as Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) scored inside at the 15:36 mark. The Crusaders stayed in a shooting slump early, though, making just two of their first ten shots. The Golden Flashes were just as cold, starting 5-of-18.
Kent State pushed the lead back to 15-9 before Valpo again clawed back. Mayella Kuikhoven (Almelo, Netherlands/Saint Canisius H.S.) banked in a three-pointer as the shot clock wound down and Carrie Myers drained another triple to tie the game at 19 with 6:10 left in the opening half.
The Brown and Gold would struggle offensively the rest of the half, and Kent State took a 26-19 lead into the locker room. Turnovers, as they were Monday at Bradley, were Valpo's nemesis in the first half. The Crusaders turned the ball over 15 times, leading to 14 Golden Flashes points in the opening stanza. Valpo also shot just 35% in the first half.
After Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.) hit a three to open the second half, Kent State scored 11 straight points. Back-to-back threes by Kacie Vavrek and Lindsay Shearer started the run which put the Golden Flashes up 39-22 with 15:31 to play.
Valpo tried to fight back once again. Myers hit two threes, sandwiched around a Braun basket inside, to cut the lead to nine with 12:03 to play. Kent State went back up 13 before Valpo made a final charge. A Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) three with 3:44 left made it 50-43. Braun laid it in inside to cut it to four, and Myers hit her fourth three of the game with 57.2 seconds left to cut it to 53-50.
After a Valpo defensive stop, the Crusaders brought the ball up and ran the time down. Myers nailed yet another triple with 3.8 seconds remaining to tie the score at 53. Kent State could not score and the game went into overtime.
The Crusaders took their first lead with 3:31 left in overtime. Braun scored inside for the first points of the extra session and Myers hit another three with 2:58 left to push the lead to four. Kent State answered with a basket by Malika Willoughby but Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) answered to make it 60-56. With it cut to two once again, Bechtold ran the clock down and banked one home from 12-feet in the lane to go up 62-58 with 1:21 to play. Another stop and Bechtold made two free throws to push the lead to six.
Willoughby scored on two straight possessions with a Bechtold free throw in between to make it 65-62 with 4.9 seconds to play. Myers capped it with a free throw to season a victory.
Myers led the Crusaders with 23 points and eight rebounds, including 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range. Braun had her second consecutive double-double with 12 points and 11 boards while Kuikhoven added ten points.
Shearer led Kent State (2-1) with 18 points while Scull added 11 and Willoughby chipped in ten more. Valpo finished the game shooting 44.4%, including 50% in the second half and overtime.
Valparaiso (2-1) will advance to Saturday's championship game at 2 p.m. CST against Xavier (Ohio), a 62-51 winner over Elon in the first game.