Valparaiso, Ind. - Valpo seniors Roberto Nieves and Kikas Gomes each made a 3-pointer down the stretch to halt a furious Oakland comeback as the Crusaders held on to defeat the Golden Grizzlies 77-72. The win, which ran Valpo's current win streak to five, extended the Crusaders' all-time record against Oakland to 12-0.
The Crusaders (9-9, 6-3 Mid-Con) received a balanced effort, led by 16 points each from Nieves and Gomes. Dan Oppland added 13 points and Ali Berdiel tallied 12 points, seven assists and four steals. Another senior, Greg Tonagel, played his first game of the season, scoring five points in 17 minutes, including making the game's final free throws with 10 seconds remaining.
Oakland (8-13, 2-7) was led by Mike Helms with 29 points and five assists. Rawle Marshall added 20 points and six rebounds for the Golden Grizzlies.
After leading 45-30 at halftime, Valpo had to stave off a second-half comeback by Oakland. The Crusaders had their largest lead of 19 (55-36) with 15:20 left before the Golden Grizzlies outscored Valpo 14-2 to cut the advantage to 57-50 with 9:40 left. Helms scored nine points during the run.
Valpo used a 7-4 run to push its lead to 64-54 at the 7:09 mark until Helms scored six of Oakland's next eight points to trim its deficit to 66-62 with 3:54 left. Nieves then swished a 3-pointer and, after Marshall hit a short jumper, Gomes drained a trey to expand the lead to 72-64 with 2:14 left.
Berdiel made two free throws, Gomes converted one and Tonagel added his two charity tosses in the final 30 seconds to secure the win.
In the first half, Valpo went on a 10-0 run to break open a close game in the last five minutes. Three-pointers by Berdiel and Gomes, and four points by Nieves ignited the run which gave Valpo a 40-28 lead with 3:03 remaining.
Valpo was very effective from the free throw line, making 26 of 33 (79 percent) to Oakland's 11 of 19 (58 percent). The Golden Grizzlies shot 44 percent overall (28-63) to the Crusaders' 43 percent (21 of 49).
Gomes made four 3-pointers and Nieves added three treys as Valpo made 9 of 23 from beyond the arc. Oakland made 5 of 17 from 3-point territory.
Oakland outrebounded Valpo 40-34 as David Ritzema shared game-high rebounding honors with Nieves (seven). Each team committed 15 turnovers.
Valpo travels to play at Western Illinois on Saturday beginning at 8 p.m.