Valparaiso University senior Ryan Broekhoff played the role of hero on Saturday night, draining a three at the buzzer to lift the Crusaders to a 70-69 win over Green Bay in the Horizon League semifinals. While Bryce Drew’s “The Shot” from the 1998 NCAA Tournament stands alone as the greatest moment in the history of the storied program, Broekhoff’s miracle heave may have inserted him into second on that list.
With 17 seconds left in regulation and the Phoenix leading 66-64, Matt Kenney missed a three point attempt that sent the Crusaders into a fouling frenzy. After Valpo exceeded the limit three fouls later, Green Bay sophomore Keifer Sykes knocked down a pair of free throws to build the lead to four.
Just 10 seconds after a costly miss from long range, Kenney redeemed himself with a three to trim the lead to one with seven ticks left on the clock. Alec Brown missed the back end of a one-and-one, opening the door for Broekhoff with the Crusaders down by two.
Broekhoff’s off balance, desperation fling from the right wing swished through the net, sending a large Athletics-Recreation Center crowd into celebration mode.
“It’s kind of a blur right now,” Broekhoff said. “I got the ball with about six seconds left. At first, I was trying to get to the rim, but I kind of fumbled a little bit and [Brennan] Cougill was on me, so I just kind of flung it up and hoped and prayed. I never expected it to go in. It felt terrible coming out of the hands, so I am thankful that it went in.”
Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew said he cannot think of a buzzer beater that he witnessed from the bench during his NBA career or coaching career that is comparable to Broekhoff’s.
“I was right in front of it and he lost the ball and then he had a 6’10” player right in his face and he got it over him and it went straight through,” Drew said.
Kevin Van Wijk left with a right ankle injury midway through the first half, but he did return to the game and finished with 17 points and five rebounds. However, Van Wijk’s ankle remains a concern entering the Horizon League championship game on Tuesday night.
“His ankle is not doing too well,” Drew said. “Hopefully it will heal quickly and we’ll have him for Tuesday.”
Sykes was the game’s leading scorer with 31 points, while Broekhoff paced the Crusaders with 25. Both teams scuffled from the floor, especially beyond the arc, in the first half and picked it up in the second half. After missing all six first half three point tries, the Phoenix hit 6-of-8 in the second half. Valparaiso converted at a 6-for-11 clip from long range in the second half after hitting 2-of-8 before the break.
The Crusaders now turn their attention to the Wright State Raiders, who are coming off a thrilling victory of their own, a 56-54 upset of Detroit.
“I haven’t seen their film,” Drew said after Saturday night’s victory. “After this I’ll probably start preparing for them, but obviously they’re a very good defensive team, very good on offense and they execute extremely well. They’re just a good team and a good coach.”
Horizon League Tournament Notes
Horizon League Commissioner Jon LeCrone delivered the State of the League Address on Saturday prior to the semifinal games. He addressed potential league expansion, plus mentioned that he is very impressed with the job Valparaiso University does hosting the tournament.
The Washington Township elementary and middle school choirs sang the National Anthem prior to the start of Saturday night’s action. Choir Director Janet Wade said she wanted to get the younger students the opportunity to perform at the Athletics-Recreation Center after her high school students did so twice.
“They’re excited about being here, because they’ve never done anything like this before, so it meant a lot to them,” Wade said.
The Horizon League Championship between Valparaiso and Wright State will get underway at 8 p.m. on Tuesday and will be televised live on ESPN.