From laughter to tears and everything in between, Saturday ran the full gamut of emotions for the Valparaiso University women’s basketball seniors. But when this year’s seniors stepped off the Athletics-Recreation Center floor for the final time, the emotion they felt was one of delight after turning around a 26-point loss in the conference opener on Jan. 6 at Loyola to beat those same Ramblers 81-74. A game that exemplified the program’s progress over the course of the season saw all five starters finish in double figures in a true team effort.
How It Happened
- Valpo trailed 7-2 in the early going, but Addison Stoller (Cissna Park, Ill. / Cissna Park) knocked in a 3-pointer with 5:54 left in the opening quarter to help reverse the momentum. Valpo still trailed by seven with 50 seconds left in the quarter and entered the quarter break down 16-10.
- Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind. / Westview) forced Loyola into a timeout when she swished a triple with 6:06 left in the first half to put Valpo up 22-21for the team’s first lead of the game.
- Loyola (12-17, 6-12) wrestled the lead back, but another go-ahead 3-pointer, this time by Ilysse Pitts (Aurora, Ill. / Montini) at the 4:57 mark, put Valpo up 25-23.
- Valpo went on a 10-0 run late in the quarter to widen a one-point edge to 11. When the second quarter was said and done, Valpo had racked up 30 points and outscored the Ramblers 30-13. Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain) knocked down all four shots she took in the quarter, helping the team shoot nearly 70 percent.
- Valpo held a double-figure lead for the entire third period with the margin fluctuating between 10 and 15. Valpo won that quarter 23-22 behind 14 points in that quarter alone by Stoller, while Loyola’s Abby O’Connor had 12 of her own in that period.
- The Ramblers fought to within single digits, using a 6-0 run midway through the fourth to cut a 10-point lead to four with 3:50 remaining. Shay Frederick (Greenville, Wis. / Hortonville) knocked down a significant triple with 3:29 to go to boost the advantage back up to seven.
- Loyola again got within four on a 3-pointer by O’Connor with 1:26 left, but Valpo effectively managed the clock down the stretch and Hales and Frederick combined to go 6-of-6 at the foul line to ice the seven-point victory.
Inside the Game
- Stoller led all scorers and rebounders with a double-double of 22 and 11. She enjoyed the third double-double of her career, all coming this season. It also marked the second time she had 20+ points and 10+ boards in a game, joining her Jan. 25 performance vs. Southern Illinois. The 11 caroms matched Stoller’s career watermark, which was set in that game against the Salukis.
- This marked the second time this season Valpo had five players finish in double figures, joining Feb. 28 at Bradley. The team has had four or more players score double figures on seven occasions this year.
- Hales racked up 17 points, while Hamlet scored 16 in the final home game of her illustrious career. Frederick added 11 to go along with seven assists while Ella Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis. / Rice Lake) also finished in double figures with 10.
- Valpo shot 50.9 percent from the field, the second time the team has eclipsed 50 percent this season and first since Jan. 20 vs. Evansville.
- Valpo committed just nine turnovers, the fewest since that Jan. 20 win over the Purple Aces.
- The team also took care of business at the free-throw line, going 13-of-14 (92.9 percent) for the squad’s top free-throw percentage of the season (minimum 10 attempts).
- By outscoring Loyola 30-13 in the second quarter, the team tied for the most points in a single quarter in program history, matching last year’s 30-12 performance in the fourth against those same Ramblers in Rogers Park. Women’s basketball transitioned from halves to quarters before the 2015-16 season.
- Valpo’s starting five combined to shoot 63 percent from the field and accounted for 76 of the team’s 81 points.
- Hamlet, Allison Schofield (Cissna Park, Ill. / Cissna Park) and Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich. / Notre Dame Prep) all played in their final home game. Hannah Schaub (Brooklyn Park, Minn. / Parker Center) was also part of the Senior Day festivities after being sidelined by a career-ending injury. The four seniors were honored on the court prior to the game and celebrated afterward during a postgame reception.
Thoughts from Head Coach Mary Evans
“It feels great to get the win today. This team has continued to fight and continued to grow, learn and get better. I’m happy for them that they got to experience this feeling of winning, because it’s a fantastic feeling. They’ve worked very hard, and I hate that they haven’t been able to experience it more this year, because they’ve really grown as a team.”
“A lot of the success in that second quarter started with our defense. We matched Loyola’s physicality and got some stops that led to easier scores. Up and down offensively, we started working together and driving and sharing the basketball. They’re a physical and aggressive team. Our players came out and played aggressively in that quarter.”
“Late in the game, we needed to get a couple stops. We got one or two, and that allowed us to come down and use more clock. Grace made a big play late. We ran something for her to drive it, and she came down and scored. It was a collective effort for us defending as a group. Finishing each play with a rebound, playing smart and taking time off the clock all contributed to us sealing the victory.”
“Addison played a great game. She did what she can do. Her teammates did a great job taking care of the basketball and creating space for her to drive. She’s only as good as her teammates let her be by sharing the ball and working to get her space. This is a very team-oriented offense. I’m happy we did that, and she took advantage. Everybody was fantastic today. Our efficiency was unreal. They were really dialed in, and it was exciting to watch them play.”
“I’m so excited that our seniors got to go out with a win. They’ve been a great group of very selfless people that have become great leaders for this team and accepted this change with an open heart and mind. They’re a special group, and they’re going to mean a lot to me for years to come. I look forward to watching them grow, being at their weddings and sending them Valpo jerseys for their babies.”
Valpo (7-23, 3-15) will compete in the opening round of Hoops in the Heartland on Thursday in the first game of the tournament at 4 p.m. at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Ill. Eighth-seeded Indiana State will be the opponent for a game that will be broadcast on ESPN+. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.