Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) let the fans “Packing the ARC” go home happy on Saturday afternoon, draining a three-pointer as time expired in overtime to lift Valparaiso to a 90-88 victory over Green Bay at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.) sent the game into overtime, sinking three free throws with 0.2 seconds to play in regulation on her way to a triple-double of 20 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds.
“I hit a buzzer beater in high school before, but never one to this magnitude,” Hochstetler said. “This is pretty high up there, probably the top (basketball accomplishment).”
“It was a really, really well played game by both teams played with a high level of energy,” Valpo head coach Keith Freeman said. “For our kids to work as hard as they did, it put them in a position to win the game.”
The loss snaps Green Bay’s string of 24 consecutive victories over Horizon League foes, including the postseason tournament. The Phoenix had won 25 straight regular season conference games as well, and had a nine-game winning streak overall coming into the game, tied for fifth longest in the country.
“This has got to be one of the top games played here,” added Freeman.
Valpo held a seven-point lead, 72-65, with 6:11 remaining in regulation before the Phoenix went on a 10-3 run to tie the game at 75 with 3:39 to play on a bucket by Lavesa Glover. With the game tied at 77, Erin Templin put Green Bay in front with two free throws at the 1:44 mark, the Phoenix’s first lead since the first basket of the second half.
After a Crusader turnover, Kayla Groh extended the lead to four with 1:04 to play. Valpo cut its deficit in half as Sarah Ott (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) scored two of her career-high 18 points.
Valpo forced a steal, but proceeded to turn the ball over with nine seconds to play in its first of three attempts to tie the game. Following a foul, Green Bay missed a free throw and Hochstetler was fouled on the sideline with 5.2 seconds to play. She missed the free throw and the Crusaders had to foul again.
Glover then split a pair of free throws, and Hochstetler grabbed the board and fed Kulaga who raced up the floor and unloaded a desperation three to tie, only to be fouled with 0.2 seconds to play. Following a Green Bay timeout, the junior guard calmly sank all three free throws to tie the game at 82 and for the extra session.
In the overtime, Ott hit a triple to put Valpo in front 86-63 with 2:46 to play. The visitors tied the game with 1:50 remaining before Hochstetler split free throws to put Valpo up one, 87-86, at the 1:23 mark.
Groh hit a jumper with 10.2 seconds left putting Green Bay in front by one, setting up Hochstetler’s heroics.
“The play at the end was unbelievable to get a shot in transition,” Freeman said. “Aggie made a great pass following a great screen (by Ott). And what a great shot. It was a special moment to see from special kids.”
“All I saw was this girl flying at Launa and I was hoping that she would not block it,” Kulaga said. “I didn’t force the shot because I knew I could trust her (Hochstetler), she is a good shooter and I knew she would make it.”
Valpo jumped out to an eight-point lead in the first half, 26-18, only to see the Phoenix come back to take a 36-35 lead. The two teams went into the locker room tied at 39. Following a Green Bay basket to start the half, Valpo rebounded and maintained a four-to-seven point advantage most of the second half, leading to the frantic finish.
Hochstetler finished the game with a season-high 20 points and also had five assists for the Crusaders, as five players found double figures in the scoring column. Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.) tallied 19 points while Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) added 10 points off of the bench.
Glover led all scorers with 23 points for Green Bay (13-4, 5-1 Horizon League) while grabbing seven rebounds. Kati Harty added 15 points while Groh and Rachel Porath had 14 points each.
Both teams shot 52% from the floor, but Valpo hit 13-of-29 (44.8%) three-pointers compared with Green Bay’s 4-of-10 (40%).
Valparaiso (8-8, 3-2) will head to Dayton, Ohio on Thursday evening to battle Wright State in a 6 p.m. CST tip-off. All the action can be heard live on www.sportsjuice.com and can be viewed live on the Horizon League Network.