By: Sammy Stava
With already one major upset in the books on Quarterfinal Friday, Valparaiso was looking to replicate what Drake did to Northern Iowa. But after seeing the top-seeded Panthers go down in a shocker, Valpo was going to have Loyola’s full attention.
Loyola was having no part of being a victim of an upset bid early on, as the Ramblers led the Crusaders 36-22 at halftime. Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson were quiet, but junior guard Keith Clemons was having himself a night with 17 points at the break. Clemons would finish with 28 points on the night.
A 14-point deficit may have been too much to overcome for a seven seed against a two seed, but Valparaiso just wouldn’t go away. Valpo was down by as many as 18 and were down 66-57 with 2:50 left to play.
“I thought we were playing much harder. I know they made a little bit of a run, but I thought we were playing harder,” – head coach Matt Lottich said of Valpo’s second half performance.
Playing harder in the second half paid off huge dividends for Valparaiso. Somehow, the Crusaders were able to make an incredible second half comeback. Ryan Fazekas made a game-tying three pointer with 11 seconds remaining at 68 all. 40 minutes wasn’t enough to decide this one, as the MVC Tournament saw their first overtime game since 2018.
After Cameron Krutwig’s two made free throws, Loyola led 73-72 with 13 seconds left. In the Crusader’s final offensive possession, junior guard Eron Gordon made the game-winning layup, sending Valparaiso to Semifinal Saturday. Being in year three in the league, the Crusaders have advanced to the MVC Semifinals for the first time in school history.
“This was a pretty big moment for us. Since we entered The Valley, Loyola is a team we haven’t been able to beat, “– Valparaiso head coach Matt Lottich said. The Crusaders finally did on Friday night, and as a result – the top two seeds have been eliminated on Quarterfinal Friday.
What an Arch Madness this has been, and it’s only getting started. Regardless of what happens next, this 30th edition has already been a special one.