Crusaders search for answers following disappointing exit

2014-03-08T09:42:00Z 2014-03-08T10:31:38Z Crusaders search for answers following disappointing exitBy Paul Oren pgmado@gmail.com nwitimes.com
March 08, 2014 9:42 am  • 

The fans had long left a darkened Resch Center when Clay Yeo walked back into the arena following Valparaiso's 74-57 loss to Milwaukee on Friday night.

The freshman paced around the empty floor, seemingly looking for answers in a room that provided a series of unthinkable questions an hour earlier.

Did the Crusaders really get outrebounded 41-19? Zero offensive rebounds? Just what provoked Keith Carter to take a swing at Matt Tiby and get ejected? Was that the quickest timeout in Bryce Drew's three years as coach?

As Yeo looked around and found nothing but a cleaning crew beginning to ready the arena for Saturday's semifinals, Alec Peters slowly made his way to the court. With the rest of their teammates already on the bus, a pair of roommates that represent a bright future at Valparaiso spent the last moments they could drinking up the past.

"This feeling is something, for the next three years that I'm here, that I never want to experience again," Peters said in the postgame press conference.

Peters may not want to experience the sting of losing in the second round of the Horizon League tournament again, but with the wound still raw, he basked in the pain. It wasn't quite Christian Bale letting bats swarm around him in Batman Begins, but you could almost see another layer of resolve being added to Peters' armor. 

The roommates have hurdled obstacles all season. From transitioning to the college game to Peters' seeing his hometown wiped out by a deadly tornado to Yeo battling countless injuries and health concerns. Both players suffered disappointment in the conference season: Peters was invisible on-the-court in January while Yeo hardly ever saw the court. The Triton native shined on the day when Drew called his number as Yeo shutdown Oakland's Travis Bader and then knocked down the game-winning shot which eventually led the Crusaders to the No. 4 seed. Peters was a different player the second half of the conference season and set a Horizon League tournament record by shooting 90.9 percent in the 73-63 first round victory over UIC. Peters missed six shots in the tournament, all of which came from the 3-point line.

This season may still continue. Drew commented after the game that he'd be open to playing in one of the smaller tournaments (CBI/CIT) and sources close to the program indicate that Valparaiso may be looking at a possible home game in the CIT. There's no doubt that Drew wants to honor his seniors, especially Lavonte Dority, who was so struck with emotion following Friday's loss that he could barely compose himself in the postgame press conference. That said, if Valparaiso ponies up any kind of money to host a game, it would be an investment in the future of the program. Added practice time and postseason experience would benefit the freshmen who are suddenly the core of the program.

There are still plenty of questions to be answered, some which won't be known until much later in the summer. Will everyone return next season? What will the coaching staff do with their two remaining scholarships? How good is E. Victor Nickerson? Can David Chadwick contribute once healthy? What is the next chapter in Keith Carter's story?

As the reality of a long bus ride home began to set in for Yeo and Peters, the pair took one last look at the Resch Center before stepping out to the frozen tundra. Spring is coming and the night is darkest just before dawn. This freshmen class will win a Horizon League title in the next three years and when they're cutting down the nets, this moment likely won't be far from their minds.

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Paul Oren

Paul Oren

Paul Oren is a beat reporter for Valparaiso University as well as various high school sports throughout the Region. He has covered NCAA tournaments in basketball, soccer, tennis and volleyball, along with numerous IHSAA state championship events.

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