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Ryan Broekhoff’s buzzer-beater lifts Valparaiso to Horizon League final

Valparaiso University players celebrate after Ryan Broekhoff hit three point shot for wover Green Bay during HorizLeague men's basketball tournament

Valparaiso University players celebrate after Ryan Broekhoff hit a three point shot for the win over Green Bay during the Horizon League men's basketball tournament semifinals held at Valparaiso University on Saturday March 9, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 11, 2013 7:10AM



VALPARAISO — He pushed the ball. He bobbled it. He regrouped. He hit a borderline-impossible 3-pointer that will go down in Valparaiso history.

Yes, “The Shot” has company in Crusaders lore, courtesy of Ryan Broekhoff.

His 3-pointer as time expired gave No. 1 seed Valparaiso a 70-69 win over No. 4 Green Bay in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament on Saturday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center, which was sent into pandemonium. This shot capped a frenetic closing sequence that allowed the Crusaders (25-7) to advance to Tuesday night’s championship game against No. 3 Wright State, which pulled off its own buzzer-beater against No. 2 Detroit in Saturday’s first semifinal.

“It’s still No. 2 all-time,” Broekhoff, with a smile, said referring to now-coach Bryce Drew’s game-winner that gave the Crusaders a 70-69 win — the same score as Saturday — over Mississippi in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament on their way to the Sweet 16.

On this shot, Drew was kneeling on the sideline, then flopped to his back, arms outstretched over his head, when the ball found the bottom of the net.

“I was on the ground, I was fired up,” he said, comparing it favorably to any buzzer-beater he has seen, including his pro career.

With 6.3 seconds left, Alec Brown had made one foul shot, then missed the next, to give Green Bay (18-15) a 69-67 lead. Kevin Van Wijk — after sitting out more than five minutes, he gamely returned after spraining his right ankle in the first half, finishing with 17 points — grabbed the rebound, and Broekhoff (25 points) dribbled upcourt. He said he was trying to get to the rim, but fumbled the ball. He then stepped back and, with 6-foot-9 Brennan Cougill in his face, made the shot, falling to his back.

“Its kind of a blur right now,” Broekhoff said. “I just kind of flung it up and hoped and prayed. I never expected it to go in. It felt terrible coming out of my hands. I’m just thankful it went in.”

Phoenix coach Brian Wardle said the only thing he might have done differently was attempt to put more pressure on Broekhoff at halfcourt and attempt to get him to give up the ball — not that Wardle expected Broekhoff would have done so.

“Give Ryan Broekhoff credit,” said Wardle, who reiterated his to decision not to line up any Green Bay players on Brown’s foul shots.

“Great player. Made big shot after big shot, tough shots. “He had the nerve and the confidence to pick it up and raise up.”

Matt Kenney also made a big shot for the Crusaders. With the Phoenix leading 66-64, he missed a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left, before Keifer Sykes — who matched a career high with 31 points — made two free throws with 13.5 seconds left. Kenney then hit a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left to draw Valparaiso to 68-67.

“It felt really good, because it gave us a chance,” said Kenney, who had 14 points. “I just wanted to make up for missing the first one. … Everything just worked out.”

Said Drew: “He had the courage and focus to come back.”

The Crusaders came back after the Phoenix used a 10-0 run — four points from Cougill, then six from Sykes — to turn a 49-45 deficit into a 55-49 lead with 7:36 left, before Broekhoff answered with a 3-pointer.

Trailing 24-22, Valparaiso had scored seven straight points in the last 1:34 of the first half, on Van Wijk’s three-point play — drawing an eruption from the crowd — and Broekhoff’s four-point play.

Showing no signs of rust from the week layoff, the Crusaders scored the game’s first five points, and led 11-2 and 13-4. But the Phoenix weathered that early storm to eventually take a 22-20 lead with 3:13 left in the first half.

But the Crusaders — who tied a school record for wins, with the 2001-02 team going 25-8 — saved their best for last.

“It’s been an unbelievable year, and we’re not done yet,” Broekhoff said. “We have a game on Tuesday we have to turn our attention to. They had every right to win this game. We did get lucky, but we have one more game.”



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