Junior Lauren Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville H.S.) made Senior Day a special one for
the four graduating members of the Valparaiso basketball team on Saturday
afternoon, scoring 21 of her career-high 26 points in the second half as the
Crusaders defeated Milwaukee 67-64 at the Athletics-Recreation Center to remain
in fourth place in the Horizon League standings heading into the final weekend
Prior to the game, Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I
Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.), Aimee
Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.), Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland
H.S.), and Leah Hochstetler (Berlin,
Ohio/Hiland H.S.) were honored for their contributions to the Valpo program.
“I’m so proud of our kids
today,” head coach Keith Freeman
said. “It is so hard to come out and
play on Senior Day. Those four kids have
poured their heart and sole into our program.”
Kenney had three straight
“and-one” opportunities in the second half as Valpo rallied from a three-point
halftime deficit. It marks the just the
second time in 11 tries this season the Crusaders have rallied after trailing
at the break.
Milwaukee, up 29-26 at intermission, scored on its first
possession of the second half, before Valpo went on a run. A 10-2 spurt over a little more than five
minutes, put the Crusaders on top for good.
Kenney scored six during the run while Kulaga added the other four,
including capping the run with a jumper in the lane to make it 36-33 Valpo.
Kenney then went to work down
low, drawing three straight fouls on Panther posts while converting lay-ins as
the lead increased to 46-40 with 11:41 to play in the game. An Litka split a pair of free throws to give
Valpo a seven-point advantage before both teams went more than three-and-a-half
minutes without scoring. Kenney again
scored inside to break the drought and put the Crusaders on top by nine.
After Milwaukee closed within five at the 6:31
mark, Kulaga answered with five straight, including a triple that increased the
Brown and Gold’s advantage to double figures, 54-44, for the first time in the
The Panthers tried to claw
back, but the Crusaders made 11 straight free throws down the stretch to secure
the win, and assure the 17th .500 season in the last 19 years for
the Valpo program.
Valpo seniors started the
game strong, as Kulaga and Litka accounted for the game’s first seven
points. After the Panthers answered with
an 8-2 run of its own, Valpo against scored seven straight to take a 16-8 lead
eight minutes into the game.
Milwaukee went on a run late in the first half, closing the
stanza with a 13-4 spurt over the final six minutes to take the halftime lead.
Kulaga finished the day with
17 points for her seventh straight game in double figures while Litka also had
12 for Valpo as three Crusaders finished in double digits. Litka and Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland
H.S.) each finished with five assists, and for Hochstetler, she became the
fifth player in school history to reach the 350 assist milestone, hitting the
number on the button.
Kenney, in addition to her 26
points, had a team-high eight rebounds, including five on the offensive
end. She made 8-of-10 from the floor and
converted on 10-of-12 from the free throw line.
“The big thing with Lauren is
the five offensive rebounds,” said Freeman. “Those show that she’s active. When she’s active, she spreads the
defense. She was the difference today.”
Lindsay Laur and Traci
Edwards paced Milwaukee
(12-16, 7-10 Horizon League) with double-doubles. Laur finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds
while Edwards, the league’s leading scorer, had 15 points and 12 boards.
Valpo committed just eight
turnovers on the afternoon, making just two miscues in the final 20 minutes, to
overcome an uncharacteristic 22.7% shooting night from three-point range. The Crusaders were also outrebounded by the
“This was a big game,”
concluded Freeman. “Milwaukee has been playing soundly the last
few games. Now we have to go on the
road. We control our own destiny (as to
hosting a quarterfinal game). At the end
of the season, our best is needed.”
With the win, Valparaiso (15-12, 9-7),
has assured itself of a first round bye in the Horizon League Tournament and
will not play until the quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 9. The Crusaders will take to the road for the
final two games of the regular season, beginning on Thursday evening in Cleveland, Ohio
with a 6 p.m. contest against the Vikings of Cleveland State. The game can be seen live on the Horizon
League Network and can also be heard on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso).
Game Notes: Valpo
swept the season series with Milwaukee after losing three times to the Panthers
a year ago, including in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Tournament …
the Panthers lead the all-time series 8-4 … Launa Hochstetler moved into a tie
for 10th place all-time with 115 career games played at Valpo …
Kulaga has moved into 15th place all-time in school history with 927
career points, passing Sarah Schmoyer (1992-1996) … Litka moved past Heidi
Diefenthaler (1992-1996) into 17th place on the career scoring list
with 906 points … Kulaga had two assists and becomes the 11th
Crusader to reach 250 helpers for a career.