Watching Green Bay celebrate a Horizon League championship Thursday night was bad enough for Bryce Drew.
Watching Lavonte Dority struggle to move around the court nearly pushed the Valparaiso coach over the edge.
Dority suffered a back injury early in the game and was limited to a single-digit scoring output for the fourth time this season as the Phoenix clinched their first Horizon League title since 1996 with a 67-53 victory at the Resch Center.
Green Bay will host next month’s conference tournament, ending Valparaiso’s two-year reign as Horizon League champions.
“We’re going to get Lavonte evaluated tomorrow, but it wasn’t good for us,” Drew said. “We saw him grimacing while coming down the floor (after the first minute), and we were concerned he might not be able to continue playing.”
Dority scored just nine points, his lowest total since he scored six points against Wright State in the third conference game of the season. The senior was limited to 25 minutes, five less than his season average.
“We need Lavonte healthy,” Drew said. “We need his toughness. The team responds to him, and he helps lead our team. We need to mentally get over this loss and get ready for our next game.”
Green Bay honored Alec Brown before the game in his final regular-season contest at the Resch Center and then the senior went to work, scoring 14 points and adding eight blocks. Brown, who was absent in Green Bay’s 15-point loss to Valparaiso earlier this season, helped close off driving lanes and continued to show his impressive range on the offensive side of the ball.
“His biggest impact on the night came at the defensive end,” Drew said. “(Brown) had at least six blocks (in the paint), and that’s usually six layups, probably 12 points. That definitely changed the game.”
The Crusaders, who were picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll, still control their own destiny to finish in second place and earn a double bye to the tournament semifinals.
Freshman Alec Peters led Valparaiso (16-12, 8-5) with 11 points and five rebounds, while classmate Jubril Adekoya added 11 points.
“We had four freshmen on the floor at the end, and sometimes you have to go through adversity to get better the next time,” Drew said. “I’m glad our freshmen had a chance to be out there. Hopefully they’ll remember what this feels like.”
Keifer Sykes led the Phoenix (22-5, 12-2) with 19 points, while Jordan Fouse had 12 points and 10 rebounds.