Oakland fires back but doesn’t seal deal at No.1 Valparaiso

Sam Schlenner

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26.4 seconds left. 83-79 Valparaiso. The Crusaders were fighting off a 14-3 Oakland run.

Valpo inbounded on Oakland’s baseline. Alec Peters to Jubril Adekoya. They were going to dribble it down before Oakland started hugging again. Adekoya didn’t even get past Oakland’s arc.

Martez Walker swooped in on a kamikaze mission and tipped the basketball out, right in the direction of Kay Felder.

For a hot second and a half, the Valparaiso crowd didn’t sound like the Valparaiso crowd at all. They were loud at this moment of truth, but they weren’t cheering. They were shrieking.

Felder pulled up in his fade-away 3-point power stance and Adekoya lunged for reprieve from this potential humiliation.

No good.

Sherron Dorsey-Walker got the Golden Grizzly rebound. Oakland timeout.

If Felder couldn’t do it, maybe Max Hooper could in quite an ideal moment for a 3-point specialist, especially with Valpo seemingly too happy to foul on threes that night.

Hooper strained an opportunity and put up a three that was too long to give any credit to his judgement. Unless it went in, of course.

But it did not. In the final seconds, the game was 86-81 Valpo. Kay Felder made a three at the buzzer. More like a death rattle.

Oakland men’s basketball (19-10, 11-5) lost 86-84 at the No.1-in-the-league Valparaiso Crusaders (23-5, 13-2) Friday night in the Athletics-Recreation Center. It was the Golden Grizzlies’ first road defeat in league play this season.

Oakland head coach Greg Kampe (who got T’ed up in the first half), in the postgame GrizzVision interview with Neal Ruhl, cited free throws as a problem. Oakland only shot 66.7% from the line, making 24 of 36.

“That got us,” Kampe said. “That really got us. It is what it is, and now we move on. Let’s hope that it doesn’t get us in March.”

Kay Felder led the Oakland offense with 26 points, eight assists and six rebounds, playing every minute of the game. He ended his free-throw streak at 49 in a row, an Oakland record.

Jalen Hayes had 19 points and eight rebounds.

Martez Walker scored 17, making two threes.

Percy Gibson made 14 and grabbed twelve rebounds, four of them offensive. He got the first 3-pointer of his career.

Six Crusaders scored in double digits.

Alec Peters led the pack with 16 points and 14 rebounds, shooting 6-for-7 from the field.

Vashil Fernandez (who dunked four times) and Keith Carter scored 13. Fernandez picked up six rebounds and Carter dished seven assists.

Jubril Adekoya scored 12, grabbing six rebounds.

Shane Hammink got 11 points

Tevonn Walker took five boards and scored 10.

David Skara left the floor with an injury.

Valpo averages 59.8 points allowed per game, while averaging 74.8 points scored.

“Tonight we learned how to lose a game,” Kampe said. “I would say that it’s the first time this year when we were in real trouble that we found a way to get back and have a chance.”

Oakland still sits at No.2 in the league, with Valpo occupying the top spot.

Ruhl said if Oakland wins out, they get the two-seed in the Horizon League Tournament, which runs from March 5-8 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

The Golden Grizzlies play at the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames at 5:00 ET on Sunday, Feb. 21. Watch on TV20 or ESPN3. Listen on WDFN-AM (1130).