Down ten with 2:22 to play, Valparaiso's defense gave the Crusaders a chance to tie or win, but the Brown and Gold came up one point short falling to Oakland 68-67 at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Saturday afternoon.
The loss snaps Valpo's 11-game homecourt win streak. The Crusaders' last loss also came to Oakland, midway through last season.
The Crusaders, which struggled defensively throughout most of the game, allowed Oakland to shoot 50% from the floor, including 9-of-14 from three-point range, in the first half as the Golden Grizzlies built a 44-36 halftime advantage.
Oakland built a 23-12 lead eight minutes in as Jayme Wilson drained her first four three-point attempts. A 10-3 run helped Valpo get back to within two, after a Carrie Myers (Stickleyville, Va./Lee H.S.) three-pointer. Anne Hafeli drained two more triples for the Golden Grizzlies as they increased their lead before half.
The second half saw Oakland's lead fluctuate between six and eight until the Golden Grizzlies went on a 6-0 run to make it 61-49 with 7:39 to play. The lead was still ten, 67-57, with 2:22 left when Valpo's defense began getting stops.
Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) hit a jumper and Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.) made two free throws to cut it to six. A Myers triple with 58 seconds left cut the lead to three and after an Oakland miss, Kulaga drained two more free throws to make it 67-66 with 23.9 left.
Nicole Piggott split a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left to put Oakland up two. Valpo turned the ball over but a missed lay-up gave the Crusaders one last chance. Rietema was fouled and made one of two with two seconds remaining as the Golden Grizzlies wrapped up the win.
Free throw shooting hampered Valpo throughout as the Crusaders made just four of its first 12 from the line and finished 11-of-21 (52.4%). Valpo finished 46.2% from the floor, including 8-of-21 (38.1%) from outside the arc.
Rietema led Valpo with 18 points while Myers added 17, including five treys. Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) added her sixth double-double of the season with 11 points and ten boards. Braun became just the 13th player in school history to surpass 500 rebounds and is now in 12th place with 509 career boards.
Wilson led Oakland (8-11, 4-4 Mid-Con) with 16 points while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out six assists. Hafeli added 15 points while Piggott scored 12 more.
Valparaiso (11-8, 5-3) will return to the ARC on Monday night for a critical game against Mid-Con co-leader IUPUI. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m. with the broadcast beginning at 6:30 p.m. on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.