Valparaiso saw its 2009-2010 women’s basketball season come to a close on Monday evening as the Crusaders suffered a 71-57 setback against Milwaukee in the first round of the Speedway Horizon League Championship held at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Milwaukee shot 50% from the field and 57.1% (8-of-14) from three-point range on the evening while holding the Crusaders to just 33.3% from the floor, including 26.5% (9-of-34) from three-point range. The Panthers, the number nine seed, built an 11-point lead at the break and never allowed Valpo, the eighth seed, to get closer than six in the second half.
“It is really important that the ball touches the inside before we are taking threes,” head coach Keith Freeman said. “Tonight we didn’t do that well. We didn’t move the ball at a pace we needed to.”
With Valpo holding an 11-10 lead, Milwaukee scored the next five points to take the lead for good. The Crusaders were within two, 22-20 at the 9:03 mark before going scoreless for nearly four minutes while the Panthers went on a 10-0 run, capped by a three-pointer by Ashley Imperiale, to take a 12-point advantage.
The Crusader got back within seven, 34-27, following a three-pointer by Rashida Ray (Fort Wayne, Ind./Harding H.S.), but Milwaukee scored six of the final eight points of the half to take a 40-29 lead into the break.
After the Panther lead grew to 13, Valpo tried clawing back. A jumper by Laura Richards (Connersville, Ind./Connersville H.S.) pulled the Brown and Gold within nine and Betsy Adams (Monticello, Ind./Twin Lakes H.S.) made it six, 46-40, with a triple at the 13:44 mark.
Valpo looked as if it would cut the lead to four following a steal, but a missed layup and a three-pointer by Imperiale at the other end pushed it back to nine. Another Imperiale jumper on the next possession had the lead back to double figures, as Milwaukee scored 11 straight points to make it a 57-40 advantage with 11:01 to play.
A couple of baskets by Whitney Farris (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) and an Adams three helped cut the lead back to 11, 58-47, with 8:23 to play and Valpo had two possessions to cut it to single digits, but were unable to do so and the Panthers maintained a double digit advantage the rest of the way.
Farris, a senior playing in her final game in a Brown and Gold uniform, led Valpo with 15 points and six rebounds. She was the only Crusader to tally double figures on the night. Lauren Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville H.S.), another senior, finished with nine points, all in the first half.
“I’m really proud of Whitney,” Freeman said. “She worked at a different level this year. She tried to do things on a day-to-day basis and didn’t quit on stuff.”
Imperiale led Milwaukee (12-18) with 18 points while Danielle Jorgenson added 11 more. Four Panthers finished the game in double figures.
“Milwaukee did a great job correcting their weaknesses from the previous two games when we played them,” Freeman added.
Valparaiso’s season comes to a close with a 9-21 record while the Panthers advance to take on top seed, Green Bay, on Wednesday night.
“We have to have an attitude that this year just wasn’t good enough,” Freeman concluded.
Game Notes: Kelly Peller (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton H.S.) and Sylwia Zabielewicz (Warsaw, Poland/Generala Wladyslawa Andersa H.S.) also played their final game as Crusaders … Adams finished the year with 64 three-pointers, 10th most in school history for a single season … Kenney finished her career averaging 11.7 points per game, fifth most in school history … Kenney’s 55.1% shooting this season ranks sixth on the single season list … the 34 three-point field goal attempted by the Crusaders in the game tie for third most in a game in school history … Milwaukee leads the all-time series 10-5 and is 2-0 against Valpo in the Horizon League Championships … Imperiale was named the U.S. Army Player of the Game.