Women’s Basketball Comes Up Just Short in Senior Day Battle with Drake
The final regular season home game of the year at the ARC for the Valpo women’s basketball team provided yet another reminder of how far the program has come over the last few years, as the Brown and Gold battled toe-to-toe with MVC powerhouse Drake throughout Sunday afternoon’s contest before the Bulldogs escaped with an 83-79 victory. The game served as the program’s annual Senior Day, as Valpo honored the five members of its senior class prior to the game.
How It Happened
– A back-and-forth first few minutes saw Drake emerge with an 11-8 lead at the first quarter media timeout.
– After the stoppage, though, Valpo outscored the Bulldogs 12-2 over the final four-plus minutes of the period to earn a 22-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. Junior Ella Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis./Rice Lake) knocked down consecutive 3-pointers during the run, while junior Grace White (Redby, Minn./Red Lake [Denver]) closed the quarter with back-to-back baskets in a span of 19 seconds.
– Drake started the second quarter on an 11-0 run to take a 24-22 lead with 5:50 to play in the first half.
– The Bulldogs extended their lead to 30-26 with 2:36 to play in the half, but a big 3-pointer from junior Caitlin Morrison (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) stopped Drake’s momentum.
– The two teams traded the lead three times in the final two minutes of the opening half, and eventually entered the locker room tied at 36-36.
– Valpo led for the vast majority of the third quarter, enjoying as many as a six-point advantage at 50-44 with 4:21 to play in the quarter on an old-fashioned 3-point play from Ellenson.
– A 7-0 run for Drake later in the quarter erased Valpo’s advantage. Becca Hittner connected on a shot with 15 seconds to play in the third to give the Bulldogs a two-point lead, but a driving layup in the final seconds from senior Grace Hales (Cromwell, Ind./Westview) tied the game at 55-55 entering the fourth quarter.
– A 3-point play in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter gave Drake a quick three-point lead, but Hales turned the score around with a personal seven-point spurt to put Valpo ahead 62-58 with 7:55 to play.
– A 3-pointer 21 seconds later from sophomore Shay Frederick (Greenville, Wis./Hortonville) again made it a four-point lead, but over the next 6:30, Drake outscored Valpo 17-6 to pull ahead, 78-71.
– Valpo had one final push, with 3-pointers from Frederick and Ellenson sandwiching a pair of Drake free throws to make it an 80-77 game with 13 seconds to play.
– The Bulldogs missed a pair of free throws following a Valpo foul, but were able to get the offensive rebound and split their next pair. Frederick was fouled with four seconds to go and made both to cut it to a two-point game, but following the ensuing Valpo foul, Maddie Monahan made her pair of free throws to secure the win for Drake.
Inside the Game
– Valpo led for 18:40 in Sunday’s game, this coming after the Brown and Gold led for nearly 16 minutes on the road at Drake earlier this year. In their first six meetings as MVC opponents, Valpo did not lead for a single second.
– The four-point margin is by far the closest in the series since Valpo joined the Valley, the previous closest game being the 21-point final earlier this year in Des Moines.
– Four Valpo players scored in double figures Sunday, led by 16 from Hales on her Senior Day. Hales now owns 1,104 career points and passed Tamra Braun – who happened to be in attendance on Sunday – for 12th place on the program’s career scoring chart.
– Ellenson came off the bench with a season-high 15 points, including a 4-for-5 effort from behind the arc to come up just one point shy of her previous career high. Ironically, her 4-for-5 mark from downtown comes on the heels of hitting a career-high five 3-pointers in last season’s home game versus Drake.
– Frederick scored all 15 of her points, including three 3-pointers, after halftime on Sunday. The sophomore also dished out a game-high six assists and came up with three steals.
– Frederick has now tallied 120 assists on the year, just four shy of the program’s single-season top-10 chart.
– Sophomore Carie Weinman (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South [Denver]) rounded out the quartet in double figures with 13 points, all of which came before halftime. Weinman also notched a game-high four steals to extend her MVC-leading total to 65.
– Valpo finished the game 10-of-29 from the 3-point line, the 13th time this year the Crusaders have tallied double-digit 3-pointers. With 233 triples this season, this year’s squad is now second on the program’s single-season chart from deep, trailing only last year.
– The MVC leader in steals/game, Valpo extended that mark as well with 13 thefts on Sunday, forcing a total of 25 Drake turnovers. The Brown and Gold have tallied 283 steals on the year, only six away from the program’s single-season top-10 in that category.
– For all that went well Sunday, Valpo was unable to overcome the difference at the foul line. The Crusaders were 13-of-15 at the charity stripe, while Drake was 33-of-48.
– The difference of 33 free throw attempts was the program’s largest since a 36-attempt discrepancy in a 3-point loss at #20 Purdue in November 2007.
– The 34 fouls called on Valpo and the 48 free throws attempted by the opposition were both the most in a single game going back to 2000.
– Sunday served as a celebration for the five members of the Valpo senior class: Hales, Maya Meredith (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral), Marlee Profitt (Medina, Ohio/Highland), Alexis Cowan (Bolingbrook, Ill./Auburn [FAU/State Fair C.C.]) and Taylor Richards (Doylestown, Ohio/Chippewa).
Thoughts From Coach Evans
“I’m so proud of our players – they came out, they were really focused yesterday in practice, they were really focused in shootaround. Sometimes you don’t know how your team is going to react after a big win, and obviously Friday night was a really big win for this program. But they came out here and they wanted to give Drake their best shot, and I really do think they got close to our best shot. We made mistakes, but there’s always going to be mistakes in the game of basketball. The way they fought, the way they stayed together, the way they kept their composure was admirable.”
“Ella Ellenson was huge for us tonight. She comes in off the bench and goes 4-of-5 from the 3-point line – other people weren’t able to hit some looks, and she really stepped up and hit some big shots.”
“It was just a really great overall team game, and I hate it for our players right now, because they worked their tails off and came close, came up just a little short.”
Valpo (16-11, 8-8 MVC) opens the final pair of games of the regular season Thursday night at nationally-ranked Missouri State. The game, slated for a 7 p.m. tip, can be seen live on ESPN+.