Each time Ryan Broekhoff walks into the gym where Valparaiso practices, he sees a large rectangular banner of his coach sinking a desperation 3-pointer that is still remembered as one of the most famous shots in NCAA tournament history.
"It's a reminder anything can happen," Broekhoff said.
If the daily sight of Bryce Drew's iconic buzzer beater isn't sufficient proof no deficit is insurmountable, then Broekhoff now has another reference point.
With top-seeded Valparaiso trailing by two late in the second half of its Horizon League semifinal against fourth-seeded Green Bay on Saturday night, Broekhoff dribbled up court and hoisted a desperation 3-pointer of his own. His fallaway shot with a hand in his face as time expired lifted the Crusaders to a 70-69 victory and secured a berth opposite third-seeded Wright State in Tuesday's Horizon League title game.
Broekhoff's shot was a huge relief for a Valparaiso team that also won the regular season league championship last season but missed out on an NCAA tournament bid after falling to Detroit in the Horizon league title game. Not only did Broekhoff's teammates sprint after him and mob him in a dog pile, Drew fell to the floor arms extended in victory in a pose reminiscent of the one he struck after beating Ole Miss in 1998.
"It was a great moment," Broekhoff said about 30 minutes later when things had calmed down a bit. "They played such good defense I was surprised I even got the shot off. When I shot it, it looked straight but I thought I put way too much on it and it was going to go off the backboard. When I saw it get all net, I didn't really know what to do."
Valparaiso (25-7, 13-3) has to feel fortunate to advance considering how easily Green Bay scored the entire second half. The Phoenix piled up 45 second-half points and shot over 50 percent from the floor for the game, riding the torrid shooting of Keifer Sykes (31 points) and Alec Brown (15).
Green Bay's lead was four with eight seconds left when Matt Kenney buried a 3-pointer to narrow the deficit to one. Brown made one of two foul shots two seconds later, giving Valparaiso the chance to tie or win on its final possession.
Whereas Drew's game winner came off a designed out of bounds play Valparaiso worked on for months in practice, Broekhoff's was simply a result of his creativity with ball. The all-conference forward had already scored 22 points against Green Bay, so he was the natural choice to take Saturday's final shot.
Thirty minutes before tipoff of the Valparaiso game, Wright State's Miles Dixon sank a game-winning jumper of his own at the buzzer to upset Detroit in the day's first Horizon League semifinal. Broekhoff and his teammates had been getting updates on the first game from the locker room but they did not witness Dixon's shot in person.
"None of us were out there when he hit the game winner and I haven't seen it yet, but to have two in one night, it's just proof anything can happen in this league," Broekhoff said.
Broekhoff ranked his shot as the biggest of his career, but he knows competition is steep for the most memorable shot Valparaiso history.
"I'm still No. 2 behind Coach Drew," Broekhoff said with a chuckle. "It's going to be very tough to top that shot."College basketball video Yahoo! Sports:
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