VALPARAISO | Given a second chance, the Valparaiso women’s basketball team finished the job Saturday afternoon.
Gina Lange hit a game-tying layup with 0.6 seconds left in regulation and then combined with Tabitha Gerardot to score 15 of Valparaiso's 17 points in overtime as the Crusaders knocked off Cleveland State 92-84 at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Gerardot finished with 32 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, while Lange scored a career-high 24 points.
“We realized that we had outplayed for a majority of the game and we let it come down to the wire,” Valparaiso coach Tracey Dorow said. “We didn’t want that to happen again when we to overtime.”
The Crusaders (8-12, 3-4) jumped out to a 16-2 lead less than seven minutes into the game, but Cleveland State used effective 3-point shooting to get back in the game. Valparaiso led for much of the second half before coming up empty on five consecutive possessions while the Vikings rallied to take a 77-75 lead with 2.2 seconds left.
Kiersten Green missed a free throw and the Crusaders were able to get a timeout at mid-court. Laura Richards triggered the inbound pass and found Lange wide-open underneath the basket for the tying score.
“I just posted up on the block; it’s what I’ve always been told to do,” Lange said. “We had a lot of options. If we didn’t get that, we had a couple of other ways we could go.”
Valparaiso pounded the ball inside, scoring 60 points in the paint, including 12 in the overtime period. Gerardot and Lange continuously outworked Cleveland State to dip up-and-under defenders in order to get to the basket. Once the Crusaders got to overtime, the pair took their game to another level.
“We could afford to be less afraid,” Gerardot said. “When you’re down to 30 seconds, you play a bit differently. When you have five full minutes, you can afford to take some different chances.”
The win was some sweet redemption for the Crusaders after they failed to pull out a last-possession game at Wright State on Thursday evening. Forced with a similar set of circumstances Saturday, Valparaiso finished the game.
“I’m really proud of the way we handled things as it was very close to the way things went on Thursday,” Dorow said. “We didn’t let our heads hang. We could’ve had it happen again, but it’s a credit to these young ladies for doing a good job.”