Valparaiso went on a 17-3 run midway through the first half Saturday afternoon in its exhibition opener at the Athletics-Recreation Center and never let its lead fall back under ten points, going on to defeat Concordia (Wis.), 77-48.
“I thought we did some good things today,” said Crusader head coach Keith Freeman. “We especially did a good job rebounding the ball in the first half. I thought in the second half we got a little bit sloppy, we need to do a better job on staying focused and finishing out possessions on the defensive end.”
Concordia jumped out to a quick 11-6 lead, taking advantage of five early Crusader turnovers. But Valpo turned things around, getting a putback from Ashley Varner (South Bend, Ind./Washington), a 3-pointer from Rashida Ray (Fort Wayne, Ind./Harding) and a pair of free throws by Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s) in a 7-0 spurt to take a 13-11 advantage.
The Falcons scored the next basket to tie the contest at 13 apiece, but that was the last time Concordia would have a share of the lead, as the Crusaders went on their 17-3 run to take control of the game. Seniors Litka and Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace) each had six points during the run that spanned 4:23 and gave Valpo a 30-16 advantage.
The lead was down to 13 at 34-21 with under three minutes to go before the half, but the Crusaders put together a quick 8-2 spurt to close the opening stanza for a 42-23 advantage at the break. Coming out of the locker room, Valpo cemented the victory, opening the second half with a 13-2 run in the first 5:35, sparked by six points by Sylwia Zabielewicz (Warsaw, Poland/Generala Wladyslawa Andersa [Midland]), to extend its lead to 30 points at 55-25. The Crusaders cruised to the win, never leading by less than 26 points the rest of the way.
Kulaga led four Crusaders in double figures in scoring with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while Litka dropped 13 points. Zabielewicz added ten points and eight rebounds, while fellow post player Lauren Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville [Lincoln Trail]) scored eight points and pulled down a game-high nine boards. Betsy Adams (Monticello, Ind./Twin Lakes) came off the bench to score ten points as well for the Crusaders. Concordia was led by 12 points from Krista Mayyou, but she was the only Falcon in double figures in the scoring column, as Valpo held Concordia to just 28.6% (16-of-56) accuracy from the field.
“Talent-wise, we have a very good basketball team,” concluded Freeman. “We still have a lot of room for improvement, but that is what these exhibition games are for.”
Valparaiso concludes exhibition play next Saturday at the ARC, when the Crusaders take on Saint Joseph’s (Ind.) at 5:30 p.m. Live statistics for the game will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.