VALPARAISO — It was a tale of two halves for Valparaiso
Following a 14-point first half, including just four in the first, the switch was flipped.
Behind strong games from Nate Aerts and Brandon Newman, the Times No. 2 Vikings were able to grab their first lead of the night in the third quarter and hang on the rest of the way outscoring Crown Point 21-7 in the final quarter for a 49-38 win over the Bulldogs in Duneland Athletic Conference action on Wednesday.
"(Crown Point) did a great job and they executed what coach (Clint) Swan had out for them," Valpo coach Barak Coolman said. "We were really stagnant in the first half and they did a great job of slowing things down and we got frustrated and didn't let the game come to us. I think their pressure affected us in the way it got us playing at a higher level. We carried that into the fourth quarter and were able to get some baskets and stops and we're fortunate to get a win against a really-well coached team.
With the win, Valpo (15-4, 6-0) clinched at least a share of the DAC with Chesterton remaining.
"I told them at halftime that we're playing for a championship," Coolman said. "If we lose tonight and go to Chesterton then all bets are off because if we get beat there, then we gave the championship away. We had to make sure to control our home court and our own destiny when it comes to the conference."
Crown Point controlled the pace in the first half leading 11-4 after one behind seven first quarter points from Elias Gerodemos, who had 14 on the night. As Valpo got within one in the second, a 5-0 run by Sam Snodgrass gave the 'Dogs some cushion.
"They're really good in transition but we didn't want to get into a slow, methodical game," C.P. coach Clint Swan said. "We gotta get the ball in the basket too so we were looking to push a little bit. I just think both teams were good defensively (Wednesday) and we're taking each other out of what we wanted to do."
After just four points in the first half, Valpo standout junior Brandon Newman started cooking as he racked up 16 second-half points for a game-high 20, including nine in the fourth. He added seven rebounds.
"We got in a rhythm and we got the ball moving," Coolman said. "He stopped standing. He was a little weary-legged but I challenged him at halftime and he responded and that was probably the best thing for him."
Valpo grabbed its first lead of the night in the third off a Charlie Healy 3-pointer that was a part of a 9-0 run that got the Vikes rolling. Healy had eight points.
"Charlie's our glue guy," Coolman said. "The big thing with him was his defense and that made a big difference in the fourth as he got into people and made it really tough for them to score. He's playing like a senior that cares about his teammates and is willing to do whatever it takes to help our team win.
Nate Aerts had 16 points for the Vikings.
"We came out a little slow and we knew at halftime we had to fix something," Aerts said. "We circled up and knew what we had to do and came together and battled as a team and I think that really helped us down the stretch. We just had to get defensive stops and we had to cut on offense because that was a big problem in the first half. We stood there a lot but we corrected that.
"We still gotta get better at being a first half team because we're not alright just always coming back in the second half. We'll fix somethings and become that first-half team."
Sam Snodgrass had 16 points and seven rebounds for Crown Point (8-11, 2-4).
"(Valpo) hit some tough shots," Swan said. "They were missing them in the first half and we wanted to force them to make tough, contested jump shots and they did. Our guys really competed and I was pleased with how we played and how we battled and I'm proud of them for that. We have those lapses offensively that we gotta get correct but we're getting better, I promise we are."