VALPARAISO | It wasn’t “The Shot,” but it was the next closest thing for Valparaiso.
Ryan Broekhoff hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Crusaders an improbable 70-69 victory over No. 4 Green Bay just when it looked like all was lost for Valparaiso.
Broekhoff’s game-winner came following a missed Alec Brown free throw that would’ve given the Phoenix a three-point lead with 6.3 seconds left.
The Australian native was looking to drive to the basket, but Broekhoff fumbled the ball off his leg and recovered to hit an off-balance shot with Green Bay senior Brennan Cougill right in his face.
“It’s probably still the second-best shot in school history,” Broekhoff said. “I never expected it to go in. It felt terrible coming out of my hands.”
The game-winning shot gave Valparaiso the same 70-69 win that the Crusaders earned against Ole Miss in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tournament. Homer Drew famously stood calm with his arms folded when Bryce Drew hit “The Shot.” On Saturday night the younger Drew had a different demeanor.
“I was on the ground, I was fired up,” Drew said. “I’ve seen hundreds of games in the NBA while sitting on the bench and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a buzzer-beater like that.”
Broekhoff’s shot overshadowed a monster game from Green Bay sophomore Keifer Sykes, who scored 21 of his game-high 31 points in the second half and had the Phoenix moments away from a berth in the Horizon League title game.
“We put ourselves in a position to win that game,” Sykes said.
The win sets up a Tuesday night championship match featuring the top-seeded Crusaders against No. 3 Wright State, a team that was picked to finish last in the conference before the season started.
“This has really just been an unbelievable year, and we’re not done yet,” Broekhoff said. “Now we turn our attention to Wright State.”
Broekhoff finished with a team-high 25 points while Kevin Van Wijk added 17 points and five rebounds. Matt Kenney added 14 points, including a 3-pointer with 6.8 seconds left when the Crusaders trailed by four points.
The game had a similar feel to last season’s championship loss to Detroit as Kevin Van Wijk went down with injury in the first half that deflated Valparaiso’s early momentum. Van Wijk returned to the game, but Sykes, much like Ray McCallum last season, took over the game until the closing moments.
“Kevin did go down and our guys were a little concerned, but we talked all year that we might not be at full-strength and we just needed to push forward,” Drew said.