Trailing by 15 points with 6:28 to play Friday evening at the ARC against Indiana State, it would have been easy for the Valpo women’s basketball team to pack it in. The Beacons dug their heels in and nearly erased the Sycamores’ entire lead, getting to within two points with 2:41 to play, but Valpo wasn’t able to take the final step to complete the rally, as Indiana State left the ARC with a 70-65 victory.
How It Happened
- A 3-pointer 16 seconds into the game by senior Ava Interrante (McHenry, Ill./McHenry) was a sign of how the first half of the first quarter would go for Valpo, as the Beacons eventually hit their first six shots from the field.
- A couple early turnovers allowed Indiana State to gain a 10-5 lead just over two minutes into the game. Baskets by senior Leah Earnest (Stevens Point, Wis./SPASH) and freshman Saniya Jackson (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) on consecutive possessions evened things at 10 apiece.
- Following an ISU offensive foul, fifth-year Olivia Brown (East Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids [St. Bonaventure]) drilled a 3-pointer to give Valpo the lead, and then came up with a fast-break layup off a steal by fifth-year Jill Harris (Navarre, Fla./Crestview [Johnson C. Smith]) to force the Sycamores to use a timeout with the lead 15-10 4:56 into the game.
- The Sycamores scored eight in a row to take the lead, and while a triple inside the final minute by freshman Layla Gold (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) briefly tied the score again, Indiana State led 20-18 at the end of the first as Chelsea Cain beat the buzzer with a basket.
- A tight second quarter saw Valpo take the lead on a Harris triple with 3:21 to play in the half, and another 3-pointer by Jackson the next time down had the Beacons on top 29-27 with 2:48 remaining. But Indiana State scored six in a row and took a 33-31 lead into halftime.
- A 10-0 run by the Sycamores midway through the third quarter extended their lead to 12 points, and ISU held a 54-43 lead entering the final period.
- 3-pointers on back-to-back trips down the court pushed ISU’s lead to its apex at 62-47 with 6:28 to play.
- That was when Valpo locked in, getting five defensive stops in a row to give its offense a chance to get back into the game, and that’s just what the Beacons did on the offensive end. It started innocuously enough, with a pair of free throws from Earnest, and freshman Nevaeh Jackson (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) converted a 3-point play the next time down to make it a 10-point game.
- After a steal, Nevaeh Jackson hit twin sister Saniya Jackson for a layup to cut the deficit to 62-54. Interrante connected from deep on the Beacons’ next possession to bring Valpo within five, and two possessions later, Saniya Jackson drilled a wide open 3-pointer from the corner to make it a 62-60 game with 2:41 remaining.
- Valpo was called for fouls which put ISU on the line three straight times down the court, and the Sycamores took advantage, going 6-of-6 from the stripe in that stretch.
- Still, the Beacons were within three with 1:03 to go following a driving layup from Earnest. Needing a stop to get the ball with a chance to tie the game, Valpo forced a missed shot, but a backbreaking offensive rebound led to an open layup for the Sycamores. The Beacons had six looks at the basket in the final 30 seconds in an effort to make it a one-possession game yet again, but were unable to get any of them to fall.
Inside the Game
- Three Beacons scored in double figures, led by a 16-point night from Earnest, who scored in double digits for the 18th time in 20 games this year.
- Earnest also tied for game-high honors with eight rebounds and handed out a team-best three assists.
- Brown delivered 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting off the bench, her fourth effort of 10+ points in the five games since her return from injury.
- Saniya Jackson notched 12 points, hitting double figures for the ninth time this year. Jackson also tied her season high with seven rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end.
- Interrante was a perfect 3-for-3 from the 3-point line — a season high for 3-pointers made — to finish with nine points.
- Gold blocked four shots, a season high by a Valpo player. It was the first four-block game by a Beacon since Grace White rejected four Evansville shots in January 2022.
- As a team, the Beacons had seven rejections Friday — their most blocks in a game since tallying seven blocks in the aforementioned Evansville game.
- Led by Saniya Jackson’s five offensive boards, the Beacons tallied 12 offensive rebounds, matching their second-highest mark of the season.
- The teams’ shooting marks were pretty evenly matched, as ISU shot 44.9% (22-of-49) to Valpo’s 40.7% (22-of-54) clip. The Beacons hit nine triples to the Sycamores’ seven, but ISU was able to take advantage of more trips to the foul line, going 19-of-23 at the charity stripe to Valpo’s 12-of-16.
- The Beacons’ 6-for-6 start to the game from the floor marked the second time this season they’ve hit at least six consecutive shots to open a contest — the December win over Chicago State featured a 7-for-7 start for Valpo.
Post-Game Press Conference - Head Coach Mary Evans & Leah Earnest
Valpo (4-16, 3-8 MVC) looks for a bounce-back performance on Sunday afternoon when it hosts Evansville. Tip is scheduled for 1 p.m.