Valparaiso committed just four turnovers, Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.) had her second double-double of the season, and Leah Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) hit yet another big three-pointer in the closing seconds as the Crusaders defeated Loyola (Chicago) 69-62 on Thursday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
With just two turnovers in each half, Valpo was able to take 15 more shots than the Ramblers on the evening, with the added shot attempts helping the Crusaders overcome a 38% shooting night from the floor.
“Us not turning the ball over is absolutely critical,” Valpo head coach Keith Freeman said. “Late in the game we were able to go to the high ball screen and we had dribble penetration.”
Up 64-62 in the waning seconds, Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.) penetrated the lane and found Leah Hochstetler on the wing to knock down the triple and put Valpo up five with just 14.9 seconds remaining.
“Leah’s three was huge because it changed a whole lot in the final moments of the game.”
Both teams started out slow offensively, with the Crusaders putting up the only four points over the first four-and-a-half minutes of the contest. Valpo maintained a slight advantage for the first 10 minutes of the contest before an 8-0 Loyola run put the Ramblers up 18-14 at the 9:28 mark.
The Crusaders did not retake the lead until 2:30 before halftime, when Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) hit two free throws to put Valpo in front 27-26. Valpo then took a 31-29 lead into the locker room.
Valpo extended the advantage to seven, 40-33, just over three minutes into the second stanza. Loyola fought back again, though, cutting the lead to one, 42-41, at the 12:53 mark, and eventually taking a 54-53 lead into the final 5:42.
A 9-0 run by the Crusaders, sparked by an old-fashioned three-point play by Kulaga, put Valpo up by eight with 2:42 left to play. Loyola made six free throws over the next two minutes, and cut the lead to two with 38 seconds remaining before Leah Hochstetler’s triple.
Litka had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Crusaders while Kulaga paced the offensive attack with 16 points. Launa Hochstetler added 15 while her sister Leah had nine. Sarah Ott (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) grabbed 10 boards for her third double-figure rebounding night of the season.
“Sarah was much better on the boards for us tonight,” Freeman commented.
Keisha Collins led Loyola (4-17, 2-8 Horizon) with 23 points while Maggie McCloskey added 11 for the Ramblers.
Both teams shot well from the free throw line with Valpo making 17-of-19 (89.5%) and Loyola hitting 21-of-25 (84%).
“Defense is going to be the difference going from here,” Freeman closed with. “We have to be able to win games on nights we don’t shoot well.”
Valpo (10-11) will look to return to the .500 mark on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders close out their four-game homestand against UIC. Tip-off is set for 1:35 p.m. at the ARC with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) as well as shown on the Horizon League Network.