Valparaiso used a game-ending 10-2 run to turn a late five-point deficit into a 77-74 victory over Loyola (Chicago) on Thursday evening in Chicago, Ill.
The victory was the Crusaders' fourth straight overall and improves Valpo to 11-0 all-time against its future Horizon League foe.
A three-pointer by Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.) cut Loyola's lead to one, 74-73, with 1:46 to play. The sophomore then followed on the ensuing possession with a driving lay-up to give Valpo the lead with 1:10 to go.
Loyola looked to retake the lead following an offensive rebound, but a Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) steal with 21.4 seconds to play gave the Brown and Gold the ball back. The senior made one of two free throws, giving the Ramblers one more chance, trailing 76-74. Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) blocked a Jennifer Juergens shot, her third rejection of the game, with five seconds left and made one more free throw to seal the victory.
The Crusaders caught fire from the floor early, making their first seven shots of the game, including a pair of triples by Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.). A 14-0 run, keyed by the hot shooting, put Valpo up 21-7 just five minutes into the contest. During the span, Loyola committed six turnovers leading to 16 Valpo points.
The Ramblers answered with a big run of their own over the next eight minutes. A 17-4 spurt brought the hosts to within one as Valpo made just 2-of-16 field goals during the span. Loyola then took a 36-30 lead with 2:10 to play before halftime on three straight baskets by Jessica Hylton, the second a three-pointer.
Loyola held a 42-38 lead at the break, despite committing 13 first half turnovers. The Ramblers made up for the miscues shooting 56.7% from the floor, including 5-of-8 (62.5%) from three-point range. Valpo was led at intermission by Braun, who had 10 points and seven rebounds, while Sarah Ott (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) scored 11 points.
Coming out of the locker room, Valpo scored the first seven points to regain the lead. The Crusaders maintained a two-to-four point advantage most of the next 10 minutes before Loyola retook the lead 60-59 with 8:00 to play in the game. Marquise Hanser scored eight consecutive Rambler points to increase the lead to five, 72-67, with 3:51 to play in the game before Valpo made its late rally.
The win was Valpo's fourth straight by nine points or less and was keyed by all five starters scoring in double figures. Braun finished with a double-double, 18 points and 10 rebounds including six offensive, the 17th of her career. Ott added 17 points a career-high, while Kulaga chipped in 13, all in the second half. Rietema added 12 points and Myers had 10 in the win.
Jenna Real led Loyola (0-6) with 17 points and 11 rebounds while Juergens added 15 points and eight boards.
Valparaiso (4-2) will finish its stretch of three games in five days on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders take part in the Hoosier State Classic in Indianapolis, Ind. hosted by Butler. Valpo will face Indiana State beginning at 12 p.m. CST with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.