Agnieszka Kulaga (Tarnow, Poland/I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace H.S.) tied her career high with 26 points while Aimee Litka (South Bend, Ind./Saint Joseph’s H.S.) added a new personal best 19 points as Valparaiso defeated Saint Xavier 76-57 on Saturday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center to wrap up the non-conference portion of the Crusaders’ schedule.
Launa Hochsteteler (Berlin, Ohio/Hiland H.S.) just missed a triple double with 12 points and career highs of nine rebounds and eight assists as Valpo won for the fifth time in its last six contests. The junior guard committed just two turnovers against the Cougars full court pressure throughout the contest.
“I thought our three perimeters (Kulaga, Hochstetler, and Litka) did an outstanding job today,” head coach Keith Freeman said. “They had all-around games defending, rebounding, and working against pressure.”
Valpo jumped in front quickly, allowing the Cougars to score just one field goal in the game’s first seven minutes as the Crusaders built a 13-2 lead. Saint Xavier fought back with a 12-1 run to tie the game at 14 at the 9:25 mark of the first half, holding Valpo without a field goal for more than four minutes.
The Crusaders pushed the lead back to nine twice in the first half before taking a 39-32 advantage into the locker room.
Saint Xavier (7-3) used a 12-4 run out of the break to take a 44-43 lead with 14:44 to play on a jumper by Candis Jackson. Hochstetler answered just seconds later, putting Valpo back in front with a lead the Crusaders would not relinquish the rest of the way.
Valpo’s lead slowly grew in the second half, and a lay-in by Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) with 6:15 to play gave the Brown and Gold a double digit advantage, 59-48 and the Crusaders would cruise from there.
Farris just missed a double-double with nine points and a career-best 10 rebounds while also added a career-high five assists. Litka also tied her career mark with eight boards as the Crusaders outrebounded Saint Xavier 50-31, including a 13-7 advantage on the offensive glass. This is the first game this season Valpo has outrebounded its opponent.
Jackie Heine lead Saint Xavier with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor while grabbing eight rebounds. Candis Jackson and Erin Hannemann added 13 and 10 points respectively.
The Cougars forced 19 Valpo turnovers to help the NAIA school keep the contest close for awhile, including registering 14 steals.
Valparaiso (5-6) will take two weeks off for the holidays before opening its inaugural Horizon League slate on Saturday, January 5 against Butler at the ARC. Tip-off is set for 1:35 p.m. with all the action carried live on the Horizon League Network at www.horizonleaguenetwork.tv.