VALPARAISO | The Valparaiso women’s basketball team had big leads against St. Louis and Western Michigan earlier this year, but couldn’t close the door and get the victories.
Faced with a similar situation Saturday afternoon, the Crusaders built an 11-point lead against Northern Illinois and then hung on for dear life for a 54-49 win over the Huskies.
The victory gives Valparaiso two consecutive wins for the first time since the opening games of the season.
“We had the lead, and then when they came back, we didn’t give up and hang our heads,” Valparaiso coach Tracey Dorow said. “I felt like we came out as the aggressor. I don’t think we shot the ball that well, but we were able to keep the lead.”
The Crusaders never trailed, in part, because they hit big shots every time the Huskies made a run. Jessi Wiedemann hit a pair of 3-pointers to quell Northern Illinois rallies, and Charae Richardson hit consecutive triples late in the second half when the Huskies were threatening to take the lead. Richardson led the Crusaders with a career-high 16 points.
“Coach (Dorow) is getting on me about not shooting when I’m open,” Richardson said. “I took about this many shots the last game, and they just didn’t fall.”
Valparaiso’s win ruined the homecoming of Hobart product Amanda Corral. The sophomore came into the game as Northern Illinois’ leading scorer (12.9 ppg), but was limited to nine points. Corral was saddled with foul trouble, leading the way for Thornton graduate Ashley Sneed to play 25 minutes and finish with six rebounds.
“It was great to have family here. I just don’t think we came out with enough energy,” Corral said. “It’s tough losing in front of my family. It’s tough losing in general. We just need to take this one and learn from it.”
Corral chose Northern Illinois over Valparaiso in a strong recruiting battle that kept the Hobart native wavering until she made her final decision. Many of the current Valparaiso players helped recruit Corral and knew of her skills coming into the game.
“It’s more of a drive to just play hard and show that Valpo is the better school,” Richards said. “I’m a player that likes to gamble defensively, and the coaches told me now to gamble and just play her straight up.”
The win wraps up Valparaiso’s nonconference schedule at 5-8. The Crusaders will host Youngstown State next Saturday in the Horizon League opener.
“We shot 34 percent, and we still found a way to win,” Dorow said. “I think that shows a lot about the grittiness of this team.”