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Drew leads Valpo back to Mid-Con title

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City, MO (Sports Network) - poured in a team-high 23 points, as won the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament championship with a come-from-behind 75-70 victory over at Kemper Arena.

Ali Berdiel chipped in 16 points and six assists for the top-seeded Crusaders (18-12), who earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and won their eighth conference tournament title in the last 10 seasons. scored 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds, while added 10 points.

"I never thought I would be back so soon," said Valpo head coach Homer Drew, who led the school to seven NCAA Tournament appearances during his first stint as the program's leader. Drew stepped down prior to last season and was succeeded by his son Scott, who left for during the past off-season. "I really was enjoying working for our school president. But when Scott left, we had already started classes, and we already had the team in place."

scored a game-high 26 points and collected eight boards for second-seeded (21-11), which was denied its second straight tournament title. and scored 18 and 13 points, respectively.

"I've got some warriors, guys that will battle," head coach Ron Hunter said. "I would die for anyone of them. This team isn't a (Kansas), a or an (Indiana) and what these guys have done over the past few years, getting to the championship game and getting to the NCAA Tournament, it's special."

It marked the third straight year that both teams met in the conference championship game, as won last season's tilt.

"Last year was a good lesson," Gomes said. "We made sure that we were together at the beginning of the game and we just didn't want this to be our last game."

led 57-47 with 9:52 to play on a jumper, as Valpo, which overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat in the semifinals on Monday night, looked to be weary playing its third game in as many days.

However, a pair of free throws and a Nieves three on consecutive Crusader possessions sparked a 13-3 run. Gomes' dunk capped the burst to tie it at 60-60 with 6:07 left in the contest.

Crenshaw raced down the court and hit a running jumper in the lane to put back up by two, but the Crusaders reeled off the next six points to grab a 66-62 edge with 2:01 to go.

Both teams swapped baskets before Crenshaw hit two foul shots with 27 seconds remaining to pull within 70-68.

Oppland was immediately fouled and converted both free throws, while raced down the court and drove the lane for a layup with 18 seconds left to get it back to a one-possession game at 72-70.

But followed with a pair of free throws at the other end of the court and Berdiel hit a foul shot with three seconds remaining on the Crusaders' next possession to close out the scoring and seal the win.

"You know, we started out 4-9 and it seemed as if everyone was writing us off," Drew said. "But, I wish everyone could see how these guys practice because they work hard and kept getting better and better."

made 4-of-5 shots to start the game, including a three from Berdiel, as the Crusaders built a 14-10 edge six minutes into the contest.

But Valpo followed by going through a cold 3-of-15 stretch from the field, and used the opening to go on an 18-4 run to build a 28-18 advantage with 7:47 remaining until halftime. The flurry was keyed by the initial 11 points from Cole and capped by a driving layup down the lane.

The Jaguars extended their lead to as many as 12 at 33-21 on a pair of Crenshaw free throws with 4:33 left. However, Valpo shook of the cold shooting and outscored 8-2 the rest of the half, on the strength of back-to-back threes from Berdiel and Gomes, to get within six at 35-29 heading into the intermission.
Tagged: Valparaiso, IUPUI

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