Valparaiso fought back from a nine-point halftime deficit Monday afternoon against La Salle and sent the game to overtime on a free throw by Benjamin Fumey (Bremen, Germany/Freie Hansestadt), but the Explorers never trailed in the extra session, downing the Crusaders 75-70 in both teams’ final game at the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam.
The first half was tight throughout, as La Salle led by one possession for most of the duration of the half. The Crusaders gained one-point leads on two occasions, the second of which came on an Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) jumper in the lane with 2:56 remaining in the half. But the Explorers ended the opening half on a 12-2 run from that point, taking a 32-23 advantage into the break.
Valpo’s offense got going early in the second half, but unfortunately for the Crusaders, La Salle heated up from behind the arc early in the stanza as well. The Explorers connected on 3-pointers on three straight possessions early in the half, but the Crusaders put the ball in the basket as well on three out of four possessions to stay within striking distance.
La Salle extended its lead into double figures at 45-35 on a pair of free throws with 10:51 to play. Valpo started to get itself to the free throw over the next few trips as well, though, as Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School), De’Andre Haskins (Long Beach, Calif./La Lumiere [Ind.] School) and Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) all connected on a pair of freebies to cut the lead back to 45-41 with 8:39 remaining.
The lead hovered around the five-point mark for the next few minutes, until Haskins stepped up and drilled triples on back-to-back possessions to bring Valpo back to within one at 51-50 with 5:10 to play. The Crusaders’ defense would not allow a La Salle field goal for the remainder of regulation, but the Explorers connected on 7-of-8 free throw attempts over the next few minutes to push their lead to 58-53 with 2:23 left.
Fumey came down on Valpo’s next trip and drew a foul, hitting both of his attempts from the charity stripe to make it a three-point game. After a La Salle miss, Fumey got the ball in the post and made a nice baseline move to cut the lead to 58-57 with 1:18 to go. Haskins registered a steal to give Valpo the ball back with the chance to take the lead and Fumey was fouled with 11 seconds to play. The sophomore missed the first, but calmly drilled the second to tie the game at 58. La Salle’s Rodney Green stepped to the charity stripe with under four seconds to go, but missed both attempts to send the game to overtime.
The Explorers quickly controlled the overtime session, however, scoring six points on their first three possessions to go ahead 64-58. Haskins drilled a three to make it 64-61 with 2:02 to play, but La Salle scored the next four points to seemingly put the game away at 68-61 with 48 seconds remaining. The Crusaders would not give up, taking advantage of some misses from the line by La Salle and getting 3-pointers from Diebler, Little and Haskins, the last making it a 73-70 ballgame in the waning seconds. But the Explorers’ Rodney Green hit both of his free throws with under six seconds to go to put away the game.
Haskins led the Crusaders in scoring for the second straight game, connecting on five of his six 3-point attempts en route to 20 points. Fumey poured in a career-best 17 points and also added seven rebounds. Igbavboa chipped in nine points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Jerrell Williams led three La Salle (2-3) starters in double figures with 19 points, while Yves Mekongo Mbala scored 17 and Kimmani Barrett 16. The Explorers shot just 38.8% for the game compared to Valpo’s 45.3%, but took advantage of 43 trips to the foul line, connecting on 30 free throws.
Next time out, Valparaiso (2-3) will begin Horizon League play, traveling to Cleveland, Ohio to take on the Vikings of Cleveland State on Tuesday, December 2. All the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell) and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live statistics and video.