The Crusaders were literally a second away from their first win of the season before Montana State guard Jackie Elliott's desperation three sent Sunday's game to overtime. Montana State then outscored Valpo 21-10 in the extra frame to claim the consolation championship of the FIU Thanksgiving Classic 96-85 in Miami.
The Bobcats entered Sunday's game having made just 15 three-pointers in their first five games. Accordingly, Valparaiso kept its focus on the post as the Crusaders were willing to allow the Bobcats to fire away from beyond 15 feet. The plan worked in the first half as Montana State shot 1-for-10 from three-point range.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders cashed in on opportunities from the line. Fourteen of Valpo's 32 first-half points came at the charity stripe. Despite not recording their first field goal until the 13:14 mark, the Brown and Gold won the battle in the paint by a 18-8 margin in the first twenty minutes. Valpo led 32-27 at halftime.
Montana State's three-point shooting turned a 180 in the second frame, as the Bobcats drained 8 of 15 tries from beyond the arc.
Jessi Wiedemann (Palatine, Ill./Fremd) and Liz Horton (Cannelburg, Ind./Barr-Reeve) gave the Crusaders a 12-point lead via the three-ball with 11 minutes remaining in the game.
Two of Charae Richardson's (Lafayette, Ind./Jefferson [Vincennes]) career-high 23 points came on a layup with nine minutes to play. The drive gave Valpo a 59-45 advantage.
Ashley Brumwell hit treys on back-to-back possessions to draw the Bobcats to within eight points.
The Bobcats owned the offensive boards late in the second half as they eventually took a 64-63 lead with 3:38 left. It stayed a one-possession game the rest of the way as the teams combined to shoot 14 free-throws in the final three-and-a-half minutes.
Wiedemann made two free-throws with 11 seconds on the clock to give the Brown and Gold a 75-72 lead.
On the final possession of regulation, the Bobcats feverishly cycled the ball around the perimeter. It appeared as though Montana State wasn't going to get a shot off before the horn sounded, but Elliott heaved a three from directly in front of the Bobcat bench. The shot took a fortuitous bounce off the backboard and caromed in to tie the game and cap a 30-16 Montana State run to end the half.
Abby Dean (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) scored six seconds into overtime to give the Crusaders a quick two-point overtime lead. Unfortunately, the layup represented the last time Valpo would be in front. Montana State reacted with a 13-1 run. The Bobcats won the contest 96-85, scoring ten of their 21 overtime points from the line.
In a tilt that saw 61 fouls, the Crusaders were in the bonus prior to the 12-minute mark of both halves. They made 28 of their 38 free-throws.
Lexi Miller (Caledonia, Mich./Caledonia) sank all six of her free throws as part of a 16-point, 8-rebound afternoon. Miller was named to the All-Tournament team.
Wiedemann and Horton finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The Crusaders return to the court Friday as they take part in the Toledo Invite. Valpo will face Chicago State at 3:30 pm at Savage Arena.