Leah Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) scored all five of her points in the final minute of the game, but her three-pointer with 48 seconds to play lifted Valparaiso to a 65-62 victory over South Dakota State on Sunday afternoon, the ninth straight home victory for the Crusaders at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Hochstetler’s three from the right wing broke a 60-60 deadlock. Following two free throws by Jennifer Warkenthien to cut the Valpo lead to one, the junior calmly sank a pair of free throws of her own with 5.4 seconds remaining for the final margin. The Jackrabbits had one last chance to tie but Kristin Rotert’s triple try as time expired missed the mark.
“Leah’s three was big as were the two free throws,” head coach Keith Freeman said. “She does what she does well, and you like it when kids like her step up and succeed.”
With the game tied at 31 at intermission, Valpo scored 10 of the first 12 points in the second half to build a 41-33 lead with 17 minutes to play. A seven-and-a-half minute cold spell without a field goal by the Crusaders, while converting just two free throws, led South Dakota State’s 13-2 run which allowed the visitors to rally and take a 51-45 lead into the final six minutes.
The Crusaders answered with a 7-0 run, capped by a conventional three-point play by Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.), putting Valpo up one with 4:41 to play. The lead see-sawed back and forth for the next four minutes until Hochstetler’s three put Valpo in front for good.
“Our last five to six minutes of the game were really solid,” Freeman added.
Kulaga led the Crusaders with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 12 points in the second half. Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.) added 11 points and tied her career-high with five assists. Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) added nine points while Kelly Peller (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton H.S.) came off the bench with a career-best eight points. Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) grabbed seven rebounds, tying her career high.
Warkenthien led South Dakota State (6-5) with 24 points. Maria Boever added nine more for the Jackrabbits. Courtney Grimsrud grabbed a game-high nine boards as South Dakota State outrebounded Valpo 41-30, including a 15-4 edge on the offensive glass.
Valparaiso (4-6) will continue its three-game homestand on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders host Saint Xavier. Tip-off at the ARC is set for 1:35 p.m. with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. The game can also be seen live online at the Horizon League Network.