Valparaiso used a 19-4 run over 10 minutes midway through the second half on the way to recording a 57-51 victory over Western Illinois on the road in Macomb, Ill. on Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, the Crusaders remain unbeaten (3-0) on the road in Mid-Continent Conference action this season, and snapped a four-game losing skid to the Westerwinds in Macomb dating back to 2002.
The Crusaders trailed 25-23 at the break and were still down two, 33-31, with 13:28 remaining in the contest. Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) hit back-to-back field goals and Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph's H.S.) drained a triple to start the run which put the Brown and Gold in front for good.
Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) put Valpo in front by eight, scoring inside, while Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) hit a three-pointer to increase the lead to double digits, 48-37, with 4:26 left in the game. Rietema added two free throws to end the run, with the 13-point lead being Valpo's largest of the day.
Western Illinois (6-12, 3-2 Mid-Con) made a late run as DeeDee Murphy made back-to-back threes, but the Crusaders went 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to secure the victory and put Valpo in first place in the Mid-Con by one-half game over Oaklanad.
Valpo jumped out in front early in the game, scoring the first five points of the game before Western Illinois tied the contest. The Crusaders retook the lead by six, 15-9, after a Braun jumper from 10-feet, only to see the Westerwinds go on a 15-4 run late in the half to take the lead. Braun's offense rebound basket at the buzzer cut the Valpo deficit to two though, allowing the Crusaders to keep the game close at the break.
Rietema led the Crusaders with 14 points and seven rebounds while Braun added 13 more. The senior center needs just seven more to reach 1,000 for her career. Sarah Ott (Chippewa, Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) added 10 points as Valpo shot 55.3% from the floor for the game, including 61.1% in the second half.
Amanda Walker led Western Illinois with 13 points, 11 in the first half, while Murphy added 11. Gina Hugelier scored 10 points, all in the second half. Valpo held the Westerwinds to just 35.2% shooting from the field but the hosts outrebounded the Crusaders 29-27, including 15-6 on the offensive end.
Valparaiso (10-8, 4-1) will step out of conference play on Wednesday evening when the Crusaders head to Fort Wayne, Ind. to battle IPFW. Tip-off against the Mastodons is set for 6 p.m. CST with all the action being broadcast live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.