Western Illinois scored the first 14 points of the second half as the Westerwinds ended Valparaiso's season on Monday afternoon with a 57-40 victory over the Crusaders in the semifinals of the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament in Tulsa, Okla.
The game started as the defensive struggle it was billed to be. Western Illinois held a slim 6-4 lead at the 11:42 mark as Valpo started just 2-of-13 from the floor. The Crusader defense forced five turnovers in the first eight minutes though to keep it close.
Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) tied the game at eight scoring in the lane at the 7:44 mark and Jamie Gutowski (Crown Point, Ind./Andrean H.S.) put the Crusaders in front with her three from the right wing a minute later and the defense continued to shine, holding the Westerwinds scoreless for nearly six minutes.
A 6-0 run by Western Illinois put the top-seed back in front by three at the 4:32 mark. A basket by Stephanie Lovingood capped a 12-2 run that pushed the lead to 20-13 at 1:53. Valpo closed the half without a field goal in the final 6:39 as the Westerwinds took a 22-16 lead into the break.
Valpo shot just 20% (5-of-25) in the first half and committed nine turnovers while Western Illinois connected on 43.5% (10-of-23) while turning it over ten times.
The Westerwinds held Valpo scoreless for the first eight minutes of the second half building a 36-16 lead. A Braun putback ended a 14-and-a-half minute drought from the field. Rietema scored on the next possession, and then, after a steal, Braun cut it to 14.
Western Illinois pushed the lead back to 19 at the 8:40 mark, 46-27 and the lead never got below 13 the rest of the way.
Braun fouled out of the game with 4:50 to play, finishing with ten points and 12 rebounds to lead the Crusaders. She moved over the 800 point and 600 board marks for her career finishing the year with 803 points and 604 career rebounds.
Gutowski added eight points and tied her career high with seven boards in her final game in a Crusader uniform. She finished her career with 822 points, 20th all-time, and ranks fourth with 151 career three-point field goals.
Lauren Bechtold (Hebron, Ind./Hebron H.S.) and Mayella Kuikhoven (Almelo, Netherlands/Saint Canisius H.S.) saw their careers come to an end as well. Bechtold finishes tied for third all-time having played in 120 games and sixth with 287 assists.
Lovingood led Western Illinois (23-5) with 16 points and six rebounds while Sarah Miller added 12 points. Zane Teilane had 11 points and seven boards for the Westerwinds.
Valpo sees its season come to a close with a 16-13 record while Western Illinois advances to Tuesday's championship game.