To summarize it succinctly, Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain) happened on Sunday afternoon in Chicago.
She’s happened before and she’ll happen again, but the Valparaiso University women’s basketball junior guard was feeling it more than ever when her team needed her most in Sunday’s dramatic 63-53 victory over Loyola at Gentile Arena. The Crusaders came from 12 points down to top the host Ramblers behind 19 fourth-quarter points from Hamlet, who was held scoreless for the first three quarters.
How It Happened
- Valpo opened the game in a 7-0 hole and didn’t score for the first 6:20. The Crusaders (11-12, 4-8 MVC) scratched the scoreboard when Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind. / Westview) buried a 3 with 3:40 to go in the first to get her team on the board.
- The Crusaders found themselves down 12-3 with 1:46 left in the first quarter, but ended the period on a 6-0 spurt to pull within three at 12-9.
- Valpo overcame the early deficit to tie the game at 16 with 3:01 left in the second quarter, but Loyola’s Jessica Cerda single-handedly went on a 9-0 run, nailing 3s on three straight possessions. That gave the Ramblers a 25-16 advantage at the break.
- Loyola (5-18, 3-9) opened up a 12-point lead midway through the third quarter, but the Crusaders used a 6-0 spurt on back-to-back triples by Dani Franklin (Cedar Rapids, Iowa / George Washington) and Hales to slice the deficit in half. Valpo outscored Loyola 17-16 in the third, but still entered the final quarter down 41-33.
- Hamlet scored her first points of the game on a 3 with 8:13 left in the fourth. After an impressive block by Caitlin Morrison (Glenview, Ill. / Glenbrook South) on the other end, Hamlet hit from distance again to cut the lead to two.
- From there, the Crusaders kept feeding the hot hand. The Valpo bench erupted with excitement when Hamlet’s third 3 in a two-minute span swished in, giving Valpo its first lead of the game at 42-41 with 6:20 to go. On the next possession, Hamlet made her way to the foul line, where she went 2-for-2 to extend the lead to three.
- Loyola’s Ellie Rice hit a 3 with 4:33 to go to make it 46-46, then Hamlet layups on each of the next two possessions – the second of which was set up by a Franklin steal – put Valpo back in front 50-46. Once again, the Ramblers had an answer, tying the game at 50 with 2:27 to go, before the Crusaders used an 11-0 run to take control, holding Loyola scoreless all the way until a Rice 3 with nine seconds left.
Inside the Game
- The Crusaders overcame a double-figure deficit to win for the first time this season. The last time they came from 12 down to prevail was Dec. 16, 2016 at Chicago State. The last time the Crusaders came from double figures down to win by double figures was Dec. 19, 2015, a 69-56 win over SIU Edwardsville after trailing by 11.
- Hales pulled down nine rebounds on Sunday, finishing one shy of a double-double. Her previous rebounding career high was five last season against UIC. She thrived against the Ramblers for the second straight meeting, scoring 13 on Sunday after posting a career-high 15 the first time the two teams met.
- Valpo held Loyola leading scorer Abby O’Connor to two points on 0-of-9 shooting. The Crusaders joined Milwaukee (Nov. 21) as the only team to hold O’Connor without a made field goal in more than 11 minutes of action this season. Valpo also became only the second team to hold freshman Kailyn Strawbridge without a field goal in conference play, joining Missouri State (Jan. 21).
- The 30-point fourth quarter marked the most points scored in a single quarter by a Valpo team in program history. Women’s basketball transitioned from halves to quarters before the 2015-16 season.
- Hamlet’s 19 points in the fourth quarter were the most by a Valpo player in a single quarter since the move to four quarters prior to the 2015-16 season.
- The win over the Ramblers allowed Valpo to secure a season sweep of a conference opponent for the first time since sweeping Butler in 2011-12.
- Valpo now has its most road wins in a single season since the 2011-12 campaign.
- With six games remaining, the Crusaders have already secured their highest win total since 2012-13.
- Hamlet’s three made 3s on Sunday allowed her to crack the program’s Top 10 for career made 3s with 142. She bumped Heidi Diefenthaler (1992-1996, 140) out of the Top 10.
Thoughts From Head Coach Tracey Dorow
On The Comeback: “We came out in the third quarter with a different mindset. Loyola had gained so much momentum that we had a hard time taking them out of what they wanted to do. We outscored them in the third, and even though it was only by one, we felt much more confident. That played a factor in what we were able to do in the fourth.”
On Hamlet: “Meredith just caught fire. Our goal became getting the ball in her hands as many times as possible. She did a great job of being a lot more patient and taking the time to read the floor. She stayed focused after we didn’t start her to begin the second half. It was so good to see her putting the ball in the hole the way she can.”
On the Defensive Effort: “I’m proud of the way we locked in on defense. I’m going to give Dani Franklin a lot of credit for that. She was physical and didn’t allow her shooting to bring her down defensively. She worked hard for positioning and made it difficult for her individual matchup. She did a great job talking when she had to switch off. We had the recognition to know where Abby O’Connor was at all times. We did a good job of taking her away from what she’s comfortable doing.”
On Hales: “She rebounded really well and gave us some second-chance opportunities. She displayed toughness going after balls and was doing more than just shooting. Grace also contributed on defense; she was in the right place and played their personnel the way she was supposed to. She played a strong game today and made a major impact in our win.”
On The Point Guard Play: “It was good to see Maya (Meredith) and Nicole (Konieczny) combine for 18 points and only two turnovers. We need them both to be playing solid for us to win games. They were both strong in different stretches of the game today. Our two underclassmen point guards both settled in as the game went on and handled my criticism well. They bounced back and competed rather than hanging their heads.”
The Crusaders will be back in action on Friday night as they return home to host Southern Illinois. This marks the first of four home games during the second half of the conference season. The game can be seen on The Valley on ESPN3 with Dave Huseman (play-by-play) and Renee’ Turpa (color commentary). Friday is Valpo’s Play4Kay Game with Student-Athlete Advisory Committee members selling pink gear. Proceeds will go to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.