Strong second half lifts Grizzlies over Crusaders on senior night

By Kristen Davis

After the women’s basketball team suffered a tough loss on the road at UIC on Saturday, Feb. 28, head coach Jeff Tungate reflected on the loss but immediately looked ahead to the final home game of the season before the Horizon League tournament.

“That night’s all about our three seniors,” Tungate told reporters. “We need to make sure they go out with a win.”

His request was filled Thursday night as the Golden Grizzlies overcame a first half deficit to defeat the Valparaiso Crusaders 70-55 on senior night.

Senior guards Amy Carlton, Peyton Apsey and Zakiya Minifee were honored before tip-off with a short highlight video followed by introductions alongside their family at center court. They received gifts and hugs from their teammates and coaches and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Minifee and Carlton scored the first four points of the game for Oakland and the team’s tough defense kept the Crusaders off the board for the first five minutes of play.

Valparaiso responded to an early 8-5 Grizzly lead after a layup by freshman Anne Hamilton sparked a 12-2 run.

Oakland trailed 27-25 at halftime, but after opening the second half with a 14-4 run of its own, the team never trailed again.

“Basically [coach] was like we’ve been in this situation before and we don’t need to panic,” sophomore guard Nola Anderson said. “We just needed to calm down and get in our groove and attack the basket more, rebound more and stop settling for jump shots.”

Anderson tallied 12 second half points and finished with 15 along with six rebounds, three assists and three steals to lead the Grizzlies.

Carlton followed Anderson’s efforts with 13 points. Elena Popkey scored 11 and Minifee scored eight, pulled down nine rebounds and had four steals. Apsey finished with nine points.

Oakland out-rebounded Valparaiso 23-17 in the second half. The Grizzlies finished with 14 team steals and scored 18 points off the 22 forced turnovers.

The Grizzlies shot only 27 percent from the field and went to the free throw line just five times in the first half but improved that to 51.7 percent and took 21 trips to the line in the second.

Freshman Dani Franklin led the Crusaders with 22 points and six rebounds.

At the conclusion of the game, Tungate gave a speech to the crowd about the three seniors.

He described them as great young women and praised their ability to stay positive and overcome adversity no matter what challenge is thrown their way.

“These three people have left a legacy at this program because everybody sitting on that bench can learn from what [they] have done,” he said.

With the win, the Grizzlies (12-17, 6-10) finish seventh in the Horizon League.

The Grizzlies will begin the Horizon League tournament at Wright State (23-7, 12-4) against the Raiders Wednesday, March 11 at 7 p.m.

Wright State defeated Oakland in both match-ups this season. The Raiders won the league tournament last year. 

Last year, Oakland lost 68-64 against Youngstown State in the quarterfinals of the league tournament.

If Oakland defeats Wright State, the team will play the winner of the UIC at Cleveland State game in the semifinals on Friday, March 13 at 5 p.m. 
The Horizon League championship game will be played on Sunday, March 15 at 3 p.m. and will air on ESPNU.