VALPARAISO | Valparaiso threw a party at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Tuesday night and could be back in two weeks for another celebration.
The Crusaders rallied from a 13-point deficit behind Ryan Broekhoff’s team-high 21 points and 10 rebounds to beat Youngstown State 73-64 and clinch a share of the Horizon League regular-season championship.
Valparaiso also secured the No. 1 seed in next weekend’s conference tournament, which will be held at the ARC. The Crusaders earned a double bye into the semifinals and will need just one victory to reach the title game on March 12.
“We never got too worried,” Broekhoff said. “We’re a veteran team, and we’ve been in these situations too many times. We knew eventually we’d start hitting some shots.”
The Crusaders (23-7, 12-3) lost at Youngstown State earlier this season after shooting 3-of-20 from the 3-point line. Valparaiso looked poised to shoot itself to victory Tuesday night after knocking two 3-pointers in the opening moments of the game, but the Crusaders missed their next nine perimeter shots and fell behind by 13 points with 2:46 left in the first half.
“We got pretty good looks, but it just happens,” Broekhoff said. “All teams have ups and downs, and we always struggle shooting the 3-ball against Youngstown State. We took care of the ball, made the extra pass, and we really opened some things up.”
Will Bogan, who missed all five of his 3-point shots on the road against the Penguins, knocked down a triple with 2:28 left in the first half that jump-started a 27-6 run that spread until the midway point of the second half. Bogan finished with 10 points and five assists.
Kevin Van Wijk scored five straight points during the run, including layups on back-to-back possessions that gave the Crusaders the lead for good with 10:24 remaining. Van Wijk finished with 15 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.
“We’ve (trailed) before, and we had a lot of ball game left,” Van Wijk said. “We had some things we needed to accomplish. I wanted to be aggressive, wanted to be there for the team.”
The Crusaders nearly clinched the Horizon League title outright Tuesday night, but Detroit’s Jason Calliste rimmed in a layup against Loyola with 0.3 seconds left to beat the Ramblers 76-75. Valparaiso can take the outright title with a win at Green Bay on Saturday or if the Titans lose at Illinois-Chicago.
Valparaiso’s six seniors and former player Tommy Kurth gave speeches to the home crowd after the game as the Class of 2013 played its final regular-season home game. Fifth-year senior Erik Buggs was honored for setting a school-record with 134 career games played.
Blake Allen led the Penguins (16-13, 7-8) with 22 points and five rebounds, while Damian Eargle added 12 points, six rebounds and four blocks.