Valparaiso recovered from an 11-point second half deficit to force overtime and then a second extra session before defeating Chicago State 75-67 on Saturday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Senior Day for the Crusaders.
In the final home game at the ARC for Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.), Jamie Gutowski (Crown Point, Ind./Andrean H.S.), and Mayella Kuikhoven (Almelo, Netherlands/Saint Canisius H.S.), it was the juniors that made sure their upperclassmates went out victorious.
Trailing 36-25 with 16:07 to play, Valpo began to claw back. A 12-4 run, capped off with a triple from Gutowski brought the Crusaders within three with 12:35 to go. Valpo went scoreless for a while though as Chicago State scored the next seven points while holding the Brown and Gold scoreless for more than six minutes in building a 47-37 advantage.
Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.) ended the scoring draught with a trey and Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) and Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) took over down low. Braun cut it to three with 2:32 left and Rietema hit a pair of free throws at the 1:44 mark of regulation to make it 53-51. After the Cougars answered inside, Myers buried her fourth triple of the game to cut the lead to one with just over a minute to go.
Chicago State's Tina Hill, who led the Cougars with 25 points while playing all 50 minutes, was fouled and split a pair with 44 seconds left, putting the guests up two. After both teams called a time out, Rietema found Braun inside with a feed from the top of the key and the junior laid it in to tie the game with 30 seconds to play. The Cougars had a chance to win at the end of regulation but Hill misfired and Valpo had come back to force its third overtime game of the season.
In the first extra session, Rietema put Valpo in front on the first possession but Chicago State's Brandi-Janai Carter answered with a basket. The game remained tied at 58 until the Cougars' Faith Buchanan hit a jumper at the 2:43 mark but the Reitema to Braun connection worked again to tie the game with 2:20 to go. The game headed into the final minute of overtime tied before Chandra Timberlake was fouled inside and made two free throws to put the Cougars up two with 35 seconds to play.
Rietema, who had all three of her assists late in the game, found Braun on the low block one more time to tie the game at 62 with 21 seconds left in the extra session. Again the Cougars had a chance to win but this time it was Jasmin Dixon's shot that failed to find the mark.
Overtime number two saw Valpo jump in front on the first possession as Braun scored down low and the Crusaders never trailed again. Rietema hit a basket and was fouled to put the Brown and Gold up 67-62 with 2:04 to play. After Carter answered with a three-pointer of her own, Rietema and Braun each got lay-ups inside to push the lead to six and Rietema hit all four free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
The first half was all Chicago State. After tying the game at seven, the Cougars took the lead they would not relinquish until the final seconds of regulation. Hill scored 14 of her game-high 25 points in the opening 20 minutes and the Cougars force ten Valpo turnovers that led to 15 points in the first half on the way to building a 31-22 halftime advantage.
Valpo's comeback marked just the second time in ten games the Crusaders have trailed at intermission and come back to win this season.
Rietema led Valpo with 21 points, nine coming in the second overtime, while grabbing nine rebounds. The junior was 7-of-12 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the line. Braun added 20 and nine boards, 18 of the points which came after halftime. Myers added 12 and Gutowski scored ten for the Crusaders as four players found double figures. Bechtold dished out six assists while committing just one turnover in her final game at the ARC.
Carter finished with 13 points and nine boards off of the bench for Chicago State (11-13, 6-7 Mid-Con) while Timberlake added ten points.
Valparaiso (15-9, 9-4) has assured itself its 15th winning season in the last 16 years and will finish over .500 in Mid-Con play for the 13th time in the league's 14-year history.
The Crusaders have moved into a tie for second place with IUPUI and will head to Indianapolis, Ind. on Monday for a showdown with the Jaguars. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CST with the broadcast beginning at 5:30 p.m. on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.