PORTAGE | History was on Valparaiso's side Friday night in a Duneland Athletic Conference game against much-improved Portage.
Ex-Valpo coaches Virgil Sweet (1954-74), Dale Ciciora (1974-76) and Skip Collins (1976-89) attended the game to check out this year's version of the Vikings and their former pupil, current head coach Joe Otis.
Sweet, the "inventor" of the Valpo free throw style, and his cohorts were pleased to see the Vikings make 26-of-33 from the line in a 53-43 victory.
"It was great to have them all here," Otis said. "I expect better (from the line), especially with Virgil Sweet here and Skip Collins who is a master at teaching the free throw."
It was a close game until late in the third quarter when the Vikings (3-1, 1-1 DAC) pulled away. A 3-pointer by Justin Osborn at the buzzer off an assist from Bret Boetel gave Valpo a 39-34 lead heading into the fourth.
"I just told Justin, that was huge," Otis said. "And, we finally had Bret Boetel take over a game like I knew he was capable."
Boetel led the Vikings with 16 points, which included a 10-of-12 performance from the free throw line.
"In middle school, I learned the Valpo free throw from Mr. Collins," Boetel said. "I watched him demonstrate it."
After picking up his third foul, Boetel headed to the bench. He said he turned his ankle in practice recently, and he had a trainer take a quick look while he was out.
When he returned, Boetel quickly made a steal and a coast-to-coast layup with 1:00 remaining in the third for a 35-32 lead.
Before that, Portage had taken a pair of leads earlier in the quarter on back-to-back 3-pointers by Jacob Bearss and Jordan Collazo.
But Valpo made 8 of 11 free throws in the final quarter, while the Indians (3-1, 1-1 DAC) struggled offensively. Portage made just one field goal in the fourth quarter, a 3-pointer by Peter Psomadelis with 38 seconds remaining.
The game featured 42 total fouls and the Indians also shot well from the line, going 18 for 25. But they were just 11 of 32 from the field. Collazo led the Indians with 16 points while sophomore Jordan Simpson, Portage's leading scorer entering the game, was held to just two points.
"We knew they were going to blanket Simpson," Portage coach Rick Snodgrass said. "The effort was there. I'm proud of how our kids worked. There was a lot of positives other than no one likes to get beat."
The Indians had turned some heads by starting the season 3-0, including a DAC win over Michigan City last week.
"Portage is for real," Otis said. "I give Rick credit. He's taken his lumps but he's worked with the younger kids in the system and he should be proud of them. I'm proud of our kids, but Portage made us fight for everything. This has been a pretty easy win the last four years, but not anymore."
Quentin Palmer and John Mosser, who was limited due to foul trouble before exiting with 1:15 remaining, added nine points apiece for Valpo. For Portage, Bearss added seven points and six rebounds.