Valparaiso rallied from ten points down with three minutes to go and had a chance to tie in the final seconds, but the lay-in attempt fell missed and Central Michigan held on to defeat Valparaiso 55-49 on Friday evening in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
With the Chippewas' lead fluctuating between seven and 11 throughout most of the second half, Valpo waited until three minutes to play to mount a comeback attempt. Back-to-back three pointers by Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.), the second with 2:00 left cut the Crusader deficit to four, 50-46. After a defensive stop, Braun made one of two free throws to cut the lead to three.
Braun blocked a shot in the final minute, giving the Crusaders the ball back once again. Rietema drove the lane and scored, cutting it to one with 27.1 seconds left. The Chippewas went down and made one of two free throws, giving Valpo a chance to tie. Rietema drove to the whole but the tying attempt missed and Central Michigan made free throws in the final stretch to secure the victory.
Central Michigan jumped in front 14-5 after a 10-0 run over four minutes early on. Valpo went nearly six minutes without scoring before Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) ended the run.
The Crusaders struggled from the floor the entire half, going another 7:40 without a field goal. Eight free throws kept the Brown and Gold in the game, but the Chippewas took a 26-19 lead into the locker room.
Valpo shot just 26.3% (5-of-19) from the floor in the opening stanza and was outrebounded 19-13. Seven offensive boards for Central Michigan led to 10 second chance points.
After Central Michigan pushed the lead to 11, Valpo bounced back. Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) scored inside and Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph's H.S.) drained a three to bring the Crusaders within 34-28 with 14:13 to play. The Chippewas pushed the lead back up to ten until the final three minutes.
Rietema and Braun both tallied double-doubles in the contest for the Crusaders. Rietema finished with 18 points and ten boards while Braun added 12 and ten respectively.
Ann Skufca led Central Michigan (6-0) with 17 points and ten rebounds while Casey Manning added nine points.
Valpo finished the game shooting 36.4% from the floor and 75% from the line. Central Michigan shot 33.3% from the field. Both teams committed just ten turnovers but the Chippewas outrebounded the Crusaders 41-33 and held an 18-8 advantage on the offensive glass. Central Michigan turned those boards into a 19-10 edge on second chance points.
Valparaiso (4-3) will return to action on Sunday afternoon at Hoopla: A Celebration of Women's Basketball in Fort Wayne, Ind. The Crusaders will face #23/#24 Purdue at 2 p.m. CST at the Colusium.