VALPARAISO | "Grease" was the word Saturday night on the east side of Valparaiso High School, where the drama club performed the 1970's musical before a packed house in the auditorium.
Down in Viking Gym, the word was "youth" for a game against Plymouth.
New Valparaiso coach Joe Otis has just one senior on his roster, forward Kristina Veljovic. But Veljovic and junior Grace Withrow, the Vikes' leading scorer, were in Indianapolis to play in Indiana Soccer Coaches Association All-Star games.
"I've coached over 500 basketball games and it's the first time I've ever coached without a senior," Otis said.
The scrappy Vikings overcame their absence and an early deficit to lead by five late before falling 46-45 to the Pilgrims.
Plymouth (3-0) was led by Hunter Stevens with 17 points, including a pair of runners in the lane in the final 2:25 to rally her team.
But the back-breaker for the Vikings was a pair of 3-pointers by junior guard Haley Harrell in the final minute. Harrell swished one from the right wing with 47 seconds remaining to tie the score at 43, and she made another from the left wing with 34 left for the 46-45 advantage.
Until those four baskets late in the fourth quarter, the Vikings (2-2) had played lock-down defense since falling behind 9-0 to start the game.
Valpo trailed 30-22 at halftime, having committed seven turnovers. But the Vikings got back in it with a 7-0 run at the start of the third quarter on a pair of Steph Parker baskets and a 3-pointer by Lexi Ferngren.
"After we chewed them out at halftime for their sloppiness, we shut them down," Otis said. "We didn't quit. That's the key. They only scored 10 points in the second half until the final two minutes."
The Vikings tied it with 6:13 remaining on a 3-pointer by Maggie Meyer, and took their first lead at 39-36 on another 3-pointer by Heather Fetla. Parker then hit a pair of free throws for a 41-36 advantage but Plymouth rallied in the final minute.
Fetla led Valpo with 13 points including 3-of-5 3-pointers. Parker had 12 points and seven rebounds, while Meyer finished with nine points.
Valpo had a chance to win it at the end, but Plymouth's Stevens blocked a shot in the lane by Nicole Chiabai after an out-of-bounds play with 5.3 seconds left.
"Nicole made a great play at the end when she took it to the hoop," Otis said. "The play had broken down and she wisely went and got it and took it in."