ValpoAthletics.com
Valpo Bench Sparks Comeback Victory

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Trailing by seven at halftime, Valparaiso's bench scored 26 of the Crusaders' 37 second half points and tough defense allowed the Brown and Gold to rally for a 58-46 victory over Western Illinois on Saturday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

Launa Hochstetler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) scored a career high 21 points, including 16 in the second half, while Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) added career best 13 points in the contest to pace the Crusaders.

Both teams started the game slow offensively, with Valpo holding just a 9-7 lead nine minutes into the contest. Western Illinois picked up the pace late in the first half, finishing the half on a 12-4 run to take a 28-21 advantage into the locker room.

The Crusaders shot just 27.6% over the first 20 minutes while allowing the Westerwinds to connect on 44% of their attempts.

Valpo's defense came out of halftime energized, not allowing their guest to score a field goal over the first 8:35 of the second half while cutting into the deficit. A 10-2 run, keyed by Hochstetler, allowed the Crusader to tie the game on her conventional three-point play and then take the lead 36-33 on her triple at the 10:24 mark .

After Western Illinois retied the game at 36, Valpo went on another 10-0 run, capped by a Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) bucket at the 5:33 mark. The Westerwinds cut the lead to six, 52-46, with 1:27 to play, but Valpo made six free throws in the final 1:09 to secure the victory. The Crusaders, the top free throw shooting team in the Mid-Continent Conference coming in, made 16-of-17 (94.1%) from the stripe for the game.

Hochstetler, who's previous career high was 16 points, was 7-of-11 from the floor, including a pair of triples, while making 5-of-5 from the line. Farris, who had a previous best of five points, went 4-of-5 from the floor and also grabbed four rebounds and dished out two assists. Rietema scored 11 points and added a team high nine rebounds.

Amanda Walker led Western Illinois (9-17, 5-7 Mid-Con) with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Gina Hugelier added 12 points while Stephanie Lovingood grabbed a game high 11 rebounds.

Valpo finished the game with just 11 turnovers while forcing 17 from the Westerwinds, including 12 in the second half. The Crusaders shot 52.4% in the second half while limiting Western Illinois to just 20.8%.

Valparaiso (16-10, 9-3) has now assured itself of its 16th winning season in the last 17 years with the victory, and continued to solidify the Crusaders in second place in the Mid-Continent Conference standings.

The Crusaders will return to the hardwood on Monday evening, stepping out of conference play to battle Chicago State. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m. with all the action carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.