Valparaiso rallied from nine points down with just over a minute
to play and had a chance to tie at the buzzer, but a three-point attempt rimmed
out as the Crusaders fell 79-76 to Youngstown
State on Saturday afternoon at the Beeghly Center
in Youngstown, Ohio.
“We did not defend today,”
head coach Keith Freeman said. “We played three to four games in a row where
we defended well and today it just wasn’t there.”
Four players tallied double
figures for the Crusaders, led by Tabitha
Gerardot (Fort Wayne, Ind./Canterbury H.S.), who had a career
highs with 25 points and 13 rebounds for her third straight double-double. Ashley
Timmerman (Pontiac, Ill./Pontiac H.S.) added 15 points, all in
the second half for Valpo, to aid in the comeback attempt.
“I thought we got some good
work offensively from some kids,” Freeman added. “Tabitha’s getting better as a player. I liked her assertiveness posting up today.”
Valpo trailed by as many as
16 points in the second half, and still was behind by nine with just over a
minute to play, before mounting a furious comeback attempt. Timmerman started the rally with a short
jumper in the lane before Laura Richards
(Connersville, Ind./Connersville H.S.) registered a steal
and was fouled. She made one free throw to
pull the Crusaders within six, 73-67, with 53 seconds to play.
Another steal, this time by Skyler Gick (Otterbein, Ind./Benton
Central H.S.), gave Valpo the ball back and she found Timmerman open for a
triple to make it a three-point game with 49 seconds to play as the Crusaders
scored six points in 23 seconds.
After Tierra Jones made two
free throws, Timmerman drained her third three of the half to make it a
two-point game, 75-73, with 38.3 seconds left.
The Crusader defense was strong, but Bojana Dimitov scored late in the
shot clock to push the lead back to four with 13.9 seconds left.
Valpo pushed the ball down
court, and Richards hit a three from the left corner with 8.1 seconds left,
making it 77-76, and immediately fouled.
Dimitov made two free throws with 5.5 seconds left giving Valpo one last
The Crusaders pushed the ball
up court and Timmerman had a good look from the left wing, but her attempt went
off the back iron as time expired.
“There needs to be urgency
not just in the last 10 minutes, but from the very first possession,” Freeman
Youngstown State jumped on top from the opening tip. The Penguins scored the game’s first seven
points and started the game making six of their first seven shots from the
Brandi Brown helped lead an
8-0 Penguin run to push the advantage to 19-8 after she scored 10 points in the
game’s first six minutes.
After the hosts increased the
lead to 12, Tabitha Gerardot went to work offensively for the Crusaders. The hit back-to-back three-pointers and added
a put back basket at the 8:44, scoring eight straight Valpo points to bring the
Crusaders within six, 24-18.
Youngstown State when on another 7-0 spurt to push the lead back to
11, 37-26, with just under five minutes to play before halftime, and the
Penguins took a 44-34 lead into the locker room.
Brown made 9-of-10 from the
floor for the Penguins in the first half, scoring 19 points as Youngstown State shot 62.5% (20-of-32) from the
floor in the stanza.
“They could score any way
they wanted in the first half,” Freeman added.
Gerardot tried to keep Valpo
in the game, tallying 16 points in the opening 20 minutes while grabbing six
also added 11 for the Crusaders, but the Brown and Gold made just 4-of-9 first
half free throws as a team.
Coming out of the locker
room, Youngstown State went outside offensively. Kenya Middlebrooks had the Penguins first
five baskets out of the locker room, all three-pointers, and the hosts built a
16-point lead, 59-43, with 12:28 to play in the game.
“We let their three-point
shooter go crazy in the second half,” said Freeman. “They only had three field goals in the
second half besides her.”
The Crusaders slowly battled
back. A Gerardot basket inside made it a
10-point game, and Timmerman added a lay-in to cap an 11-3 Valpo run, making it
62-54, with 6:14 to play. After a
Penguin free throw, Richards had a layup at the 4:32 mark to make it a
seven-point game, the closest Valpo had been since 32-26 with 6:35 to play in
the first half.
Youngstown then pushed the lead back to 10, 68-58, and the lead
was still nine, 73-66, heading into the frantic final minute.
Betsy Adams (Monticello, Ind./Twin Lakes H.S.) and Richards joined Gerardot
and Timmerman in double figures, scoring 13 and 11 points respectively. Gick added eight points and she and Adams each had four assists as well.
Valpo shot 48.4% from the
floor in the second half on the way to a 43.8% shooting night overall, and committed
just 12 turnovers.
“We only turned the ball over
12 times and got to the line 20 times today,” Freeman concluded. “We did good things on offense but
defensively it wasn’t even close to being good.
We have to be better than that.”
Brown led Youngstown State
(4-20, 2-12 Horizon) with 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting and grabbed five
rebounds while Middlebrooks added 23 points, making seven triples, six in the
second half. The Penguins finished the
night shooting 48.3% from the floor and had just 11 miscues.
Valparaiso (6-19, 3-10) will return home on Thursday evening for
another key Horizon League battle, hosting Loyola (Chicago).
Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m.
Game Notes: Valpo’s
76 points were a season high … Gerardot’s previous career high was 17 points
against Evansville and Chicago State … Gerardot matched her career high of 13
boards, the fourth time she had that number of rebounds … Gick’s eight points
matched a season high … Richards’ 11 points tied her career high … Gerardot’s
double-double was her third straight and eighth of her freshman campaign …
Adams made six more free throws in the game, and has now made 35 straight
dating back to Dec. 4 … Timmerman made two more free throws and is a perfect
24-for-24 on the season … Youngstown State leads the all-time series 16-13 and
won both meetings this season … the Penguins hold a 9-4 series edge in