Key contributions came from a variety of sources for the Valparaiso University women’s basketball team on Wednesday night in Fort Wayne.
The game was still hanging in the balance with Valpo clinging to a one-point lead with 38 seconds to go. That’s when Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind. / Westview) fired up a 3-point try from the right corner that left her hands a fraction of a second before the shot clock reached zero. Swish.
That triple helped cap a 68-64 victory over Purdue Fort Wayne that featured signature performances and clutch plays from numerous players – all amounting to a happy bus ride home following a road victory.
How It Happened
- Valpo sprinted out to an early 12-9 lead by the first media timeout thanks to shooting 71.4 percent (5-of-7) in the early going. An old-fashion 3-point play by Hales and a triple by Ella Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis. / Rice Lake) highlighted the game’s early stages.
- Following the first-quarter media timeout, Valpo opened the lead to eight thanks to six straight points including Ellenson’s second trey of the game.
- By the end of the quarter, the lead stood at four at 17-13. Valpo shot 50 percent in the opening quarter. In addition to hitting a pair of 3s, Ellenson swatted two shots in the opening 10 minutes.
- The two teams went back and forth through the first five minutes of the second quarter. Valpo continued to knock down shots at a clip above 50 percent to maintain a four-point lead at 25-21 at the midway mark of the quarter.
- Valpo shot 59.1 percent before halftime and went into the break with a 34-31 lead. Purdue Fort Wayne was in the game thanks to a dominant showing on the offensive glass as the Mastodons (4-8) outdid Valpo 9-0 on the offensive boards.
- After narrowly breaking the press, Valpo set up Hales in the left corner for a transition triple to build the lead to six early in the third quarter.
- Anna Lappenkuper hit a 3 with 2:22 left in the third and then another eight seconds later. The pair of Mastodon 3-point baskets allowed the hosts to gain their first lead since the first quarter at 46-43.
- The Valpo response came with 1:25 left in the third as Addison Stoller (Cissna Park, Ill. / Cissna Park) continued her big day with a left-corner trey to tie it, but PFW went right back in front on the ensuing possession when Lappenkuper drilled her third straight 3.
- The game remained tight entering the fourth as Purdue Fort Wayne was clinging to a 50-49 edge through three.
- Valpo tied the game at 54 when Stoller rebounded her own miss and made a nice find of Hannah Schaub (Brooklyn Park, Minn. / Park Center), who buried a game-tying 3. Schaub then vaulted her team in front with an old-fashioned 3-point play after a nifty drive to the rim. That gave Valpo a 57-54 lead with 8:23 to play.
- Valpo held a narrow 61-60 edge with 54 seconds remaining and made a critical stop on defense before calling a timeout. That set up the biggest shot of the night as Hales got off a key 3 just ahead of the shot clock’s expiration and it drew nothing but net to bolster the lead to four at 64-60.
- After the Mastodons cut the lead to two, Stoller went to the charity stripe with 18 seconds to go. That’s where she went 2-of-2 to up the lead to four in an eventual 68-64 victory.
Inside the Game
- Ellenson shattered her career high in scoring, rewriting a mark of 13 that had stood since Jan. 26, 2018 vs. Evansville. She finished with 15 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
- She wasn’t the only Valpo player to establish a career high as Stoller went off for 20 points to lead all scorers. She also swiped four steals. Stoller’s previous best came at Chicago State, when she scored 18 points.
- Hales also reached double figures with 17 points. She grabbed five caroms, went 5-of-7 from the floor and knocked down all five of her free-throw attempts.
- Hamlet was the team’s leading rebounder with six to go along with three assists.
- Schaub dished out four assists to match a season high. She bolstered her career total to 264, moving into a tie for 11th in program history in career assists. The redshirt junior turned in a balanced stat line that also included eight points, two steals and five boards.
- Valpo thrived at the free-throw line, knocking down 16 of the team’s 18 attempts. The free-throw percentage of 88.9 was Valpo’s best of the year and best since Feb. 25 of last season at Evansville.
- Valpo shot 46 percent, the team’s second-best shooting showing of the season (46.2 percent at Chicago State).
- The theme of Valpo playing close games continued as this marked the eighth game decided by six points or fewer in the team’s first 11 games this season. Valpo has already played in more games decided by six points or fewer than it had in an entire season since 2015-16, when it also played eight such games.
- In the final minute of the first half, Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich. / Notre Dame Prep) made her women’s basketball debut. Carlson has joined the women’s basketball program to add depth after finishing her four-year career as a star on the volleyball team.
Thoughts from Head Coach Mary Evans
“Our team played hard the entire game. I thought it was a really good defensive effort tonight. We shared the basketball well as a team and stuck with the game plan. We had a lot of players step up and make shots.”
“It means a lot that we battled through adversity tonight. We’re a young team in the sense that we’re learning a new system. We are facing adversity with the number of people we’ve had injured. This team sticks together and plays together night in and night out. They stuck together tonight and got defensive stops when we needed them. They fought through a lot to get this win.”
“Both Addison and Ella were huge tonight. Both were able to drive and get to the rim most of the game. They attacked consistently, and they stepped up and hit free throws. They drove to the rim and made good decisions throughout the night.”
“Every game helps us get a step closer as we continue to learn and grow. We had a tough day at the free-throw line on Sunday, and we hit 16-of-18 tonight. This team has a desire to learn and grow and fix things we struggled with in the previous game. If we keep doing that, we’ll continue to see positive things from this group.”
Valpo (4-7) will face a quick turnaround for a home game against Bowling Green that begins at 5 p.m. CT on Friday at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 and on the radio on 95.1 FM WVUR. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available.