Valparaiso rallied from an 18-point first half deficit to take the lead late, but Oakland rebounded to post a 58-56 victory over the Crusaders on Monday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The Golden Grizzlies were hot from the field early, taking a quick 14-4 lead just over six minutes into the game. After Valpo cut the lead to four, Oakland utilized a 16-2 run over five minutes to build a 30-12 lead after Leigh Tully scored on a lay-in with 6:28 to play in the first half.
Valpo clawed back, scoring 14 straight points to cut the lead to four. A three-point play by Meredith Baugher (Berea, Ohio/Berea H.S.) and triples by Jamie Gutowski (Crown Point, Ind./Andrean H.S.) and Mayella Kuikhoven (Almelo, Netherlands/St. Canisius H.S.) helped the cause. Oakland got a three-point play by Anne Hafeli with just 0.1 seconds left in the half to take a 33-26 advantage into intermission.
The Crusaders continued to claw back. A 9-3 run cut the Oakland lead to one after Katie Boone (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove H.S.) scored a lay-up with 12:40 left. Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) made two free throws with 10:42 left to tie the game at 41.
Oakland answered with eight of the next ten points and led by six after a Tully jumper with 8:28 remaining. Valpo again answered. A Kuikhoven three-point play inside cut the lead to one. Moments later, at the 5:10 mark, Jenna Stangler (St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville H.S.) found Braun open underneath for a lay-in to give Valpo its first, and only lead of the game, 52-51.
Joya Puryear answered for Oakland, banking in a three-pointer. Gutowski came back with two free throws to retie the game with 3:22 left, but Tully answered with two of her own to give Oakland the lead for good with 3:03 remaining.
Valpo's bench led the way for the Crusaders in the scoring column. Stangler scored 13 points, while Braun added 11 to go along with nine rebounds and a career-high five blocks. She has now moved into second place on the Brown and Gold's single season rejection list with 47 this season. Kuikhoven added a season-high ten points for the Crusaders.
The Crusaders shot just 33.3% for the game, and made 21.4% (3-of-14) from beyond the arc. Valpo did shoot 81% from the free throw line, including a perfect 9-for-9 in the second half.
Nicole Piggott, Hafeli, and Jayme Wilson all led Oakland (14-5, 6-2 Mid-Con) with nine points, while Amanda Batcha added eight to go along with 13 rebounds and five assists.
The Golden Grizzlies shot 38.9% for the game, but were held to 29.6% in the second half after shooting 48.1% in the first stanza. Oakland also held a 41-34 advantage on the boards.
Valparaiso (12-8, 6-3) will look to bounce back on Saturday afternoon, as the Crusaders entertain Centenary at the Athletics-Recreation Center in a 2:05 p.m. start.