The Valpo women’s basketball team led by as many as 16 points in MVC action Thursday night in Peoria, Ill. and held off a furious rally from host Bradley in the final quarter to come away with a 76-72 win. The Beacons have won three consecutive conference road games over the last seven days.
How It Happened
- A back-and-forth first quarter which featured nine lead changes finished with the Beacons on top, as junior Ava Interrante (McHenry, Ill./McHenry) hit classmate Jayda Johnston (Roseville, Minn./Roseville Area) with a perfect pass for an open layup in the final seconds to give Valpo a 16-15 edge at the end of the period.
- The Beacons scored 12 points over a stretch of 2:47 early in the second quarter, as Interrante knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, senior Olivia Brown (East Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids [St. Bonaventure]) converted a 3-point play and fifth-year Ilysse Pitts (Aurora, Ill./Montini Catholic) hit a triple of her own. Pitts’ shot put Valpo ahead 28-19 with 6:40 to play in the first half.
- A 3-pointer later in the quarter from freshman Ali Saunders (Depauw, Ind./North Harrison) pushed Valpo’s advantage into double figures for the first time, and the Beacons took a 33-23 lead into intermission.
- Valpo looked like pulling away early in the third quarter, as fifth-year Maya Dunson (Dayton, Ohio/Wayne [Loyola]) converted a layup and redshirt junior Emma Tecca (Tallamadge, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban [Akron]) knocked down a 3-pointer on the Beacons’ first two possessions of the second half to push their lead to 15 points.
- Bradley rallied to within as close as seven in the third period, but Valpo ended the quarter on a 10-2 run over the final 4:29 — including 3-pointers from Saunders and junior Leah Earnest (Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) — to earn its largest edge at 53-37 entering the fourth quarter.
- Valpo scored 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor in the final period, but needed every bit of it, as Bradley poured in 35 points on 14-of-18 shooting over the final 10 minutes.
- Valpo’s advantage was still 16 points with eight minutes remaining after a drive and finish by Brown. Later in the period, after a Bradley run, sophomore Olivia Sims (Toledo, Ohio/Notre Dame Academy [Oakland]) finished a driving layup while being fouled to push the lead back into double figures at 66-55 with 4:34 to play.
- The Braves outscored Valpo 10-2 over the next three minutes to close to within one possession at 68-65 with 1:31 to go. Saunders hit Brown for a layup with 1:08 to play to make it a five-point game, but on the other end, Bradley’s Ruba Abo Hashesh hit from deep to cut the lead to 70-68.
- Valpo ran the shot clock down on its next possession and got Earnest in an iso at the top of the key, and the junior drove past her defender for a one-handed layup to make it 72-68 with 22.6 seconds remaining. Bradley scored inside on each of its next two possessions, but both times Valpo hit a pair of free throws — first Earnest, then Saunders — to keep the Braves from possessing with a chance to tie or take the lead.
Inside the Game
- Thursday’s win gives Valpo three road victories over the last seven days.
- It is the first time the program has earned road wins in three straight conference road games since winning at Loyola once and at Southern Illinois twice in February 2021, and the first time it has done so against three different opponents since taking down Oral Roberts, Centenary and Western Illinois on their home floors in January 2007.
- The three-game winning streak, all on the road, is the program’s first since the aforementioned 2021 trio of victories. The last time prior to that came on either side of New Year’s Day 2005, when Valpo won at Dartmouth to close nonconference play and opened Mid-Con play with wins at Centenary and at Oakland.
- Valpo shot a season-best 53.2% from the field in Thursday’s win. The Beacons have hit at better than 50% in each of the last two games after doing so just twice in the first 24 games of the season.
- This marks the first time Valpo has shot 50% or better in consecutive games since doing so against Bradley and Illinois State last February.
- The Beacons were especially efficient inside the arc, going 17-of-23 (73.9%) from 2-point range. That 2-point percentage is the program’s best in a single game in at least the last 13 seasons.
- It was a balanced team effort on Thursday, as no player played more than 31 minutes and nine played at least 15 minutes. All nine of those players scored, with six of them scoring six or more points.
- Leading the way offensively were Brown and Saunders, who shared game-high honors with 17 points. Brown paced Valpo for the third straight game in the scoring column, going 6-of-8 from the floor and a perfect 5-of-5 from the foul line.
- Saunders scored in double figures for the 15th time with her 17-point effort, missing just once from the floor (6-7 FG; 2-3 3PT; 3-3 FT). The freshman also tied for team-high honors with four assists and committed just one turnover.
- Earnest’s four clutch points in the final minute of play bumped her game total to 11 points, as she scored in double figures for a team-best 17th time this season. The junior also pulled down five rebounds.
- Interrante notched eight points off the bench, while Tecca scored seven and Pitts added six on a pair of 3-pointers. Pitts also tied Saunders for the team best with four assists.
- Dunson tied for a game high with six rebounds, just one off her career best.
- The Valpo defense limited Bradley to 23 points on 38.5% shooting over the opening 20 minutes before the Braves scored 49 points on 70% shooting over the final 20 minutes.
Valpo (7-19, 5-12 MVC) aims for a fourth straight road win Saturday afternoon when it takes on MVC co-leader Illinois State in Normal, Ill. Game time is slated for 4 p.m., and the game can be seen live on ESPN3.