VALPARAISO – Grace’s women’s basketball team gave NCAA Div. I Valparaiso a battle on Saturday in an entertaining contest.
The Lady Lancers (8-6) stayed within striking distance from the tipoff nearly to the final buzzer, eventually falling 71-49.
The Crusaders’ height gradually wore down Grace, separating what was otherwise a close contest.
Vironnica Drake scored all 10 of her team-high points in the second half, and Kelsie Peterson and Brooke Sugg added seven points apiece.
Grace’s offense was in a lull to start the contest. The Lady Lancers had several quality looks but were unable to connect as they adjusted to the D1 atmosphere. It took Grace nearly five minutes of action to get on the scoreboard until Brooke Treadway scored on a jumper.
The Lady Lancers had four turnovers and missed 10 of their 13 field goals in the period, but Grace’s defense kept the game close. Valpo struggled to shoot 24 percent from the floor in the quarter as Grace only trailed 12-7.
In the second quarter, Grace stayed neck-and-neck with the Crusaders (5-4). A 3-pointer from Peterson closed the gap to 15-13.
The Crusaders started to gain separation as height and free throws began to pay dividends. Valpo scored 10 of its points in the second quarter after offensive rebounds, and the Crusaders added five free throws as well.
Grace trailed 34-21 at halftime after shooting 31 percent from the floor, including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. Darian Patton scored six points with five boards to lead Grace at the break, and Peterson added five points.
Drake, who was held scoreless in the first half, jumpstarted Grace’s offense in the third quarter. Drake scored Grace’s first 10 points of the second half to keep the game close.
The Crusaders still held a 55-37 advantage going into the final stanza.
Grace’s offensive momentum continued into the fourth quarter. Chloe Pridgen and Brooke Sugg sparked the Lady Lancers, trimming Valpo’s lead down to 14 and forcing the Crusaders to burn a timeout.
On Grace’s next possession, Sugg a deep 3-pointer to make the score 59-46 with 5:40 on the clock. But Valpo responded with a triple of its own, starting a 10-0 run that effectively ended the game. The Lady Lancers only mustered three points for the final 5:40 of the game, allowing the Crusaders to expand the final margin of victory.
For the game Grace shot 30 percent from the floor, which included 3-of-18 from beyond the arc. Grace was only outrebounded 41-38 despite a significant height disadvantage.
Valpo scored 63 percent of its points in the paint, shooting 42 percent for the game.
Drake’s 10 points led Grace, and Peterson’s seven points came with three assists. Patton tallied 6 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals, and Pridgen added six points and seven boards in 14 minutes.
Pam Miller, Haley Richardson, Lauren Godfrey, Myriah Hoffman and Catherine Weaver also scored against Valpo.
The Lady Lancers will not get easier in the coming weeks. Grace travels to Hawaii for a Dec. 19 game against Doane and a Dec. 21 matchup with No. 1 Dakota Wesleyan.