Feb. 11—LA PORTE — Leading for just 26 seconds Saturday night, the Valparaiso Vikings spoiled Northridge girls basketball's IHSAA 4A Semi-State hopes with a dagger and defensive stop to send the Raiders out of the regional round for a second consecutive season on the heels of a 47-46 loss.
Dry eyes weren't found on Northridge's sideline at La Porte High School.
"First thing I told them is I love them," Raiders head coach Doug Springer said afterwards. "I have my own family, I have three kids of my own and our team is a second family. Those girls are like my second daughters and my second kids. I've spent an awful lot of time with these girls from the time they were third graders on with our travel program."
"I told them I loved them, I told them I was proud of them."
Northridge, who had thrived on scoring depth and fundamentally sound mechanics all season, once again found the machine working like always. Still, Valparaiso's size grew more advantageous down the stretch. In the Vikings starting lineup are four players over six feet — all taller than any member on the Raiders' roster.
That helped on the final series for both teams.
Northridge up 46-45 following a fourth 3-pointer from junior Ella Mohamed, the Raiders had the ball with 21 seconds to play. Following a timeout, Northridge's Morgan Cross glanced her dribble off her foot, shooting the ball out of bounds.
Valparaiso stalled the clock and looked to be trapped in the corner. Fighting through a double screen was Cross but was sent to the ground to the left sideline bleachers. Helping down low were Northridge teammates who shifted over before Vikings guard Rebecca Gerdt received a backdoor pass for the layup and the foul with eight ticks left.
On Gerdt's miss, Northridge pushed the ball up court trailing 47-46 but junior 5-foot-5 guard Rielyn Goodwin drove inside on the mountainous Vikings defense. Unable to get the shot off successfully, it was the Raiders who were stunned after leading for 31 minutes Saturday night.
"Tip your hat to Valpo, they got some big stops down the stretch," Springer said after an extended stay in the locker room following the action. "Their size finally got to us."
"We had a play called, Valpo did a good job of taking away our option one and Rielyn's right there, she's trying to take it and she's going against 6-[foot]-2, and when she got by 6-[foot]-2, 6-[foot]-1 was waiting on her there and we couldn't get a shot off," Springer said about the final possession, also adding before he was unsure and needed to look at the film for how the final Vikings possession sent Cross through the screens.
Northridge was playing for its first regional title since 2017. The Raiders season came to an end at 24-4 and having won back-to-back sectional titles for the first time in program history.
The Raiders shot 15-of-43 from the floor and 5-of-16 from behind the arc. They were also 10-of-12 at the charity stripe. Mohamed led the scoring with 12 points followed by Goodwin, Cross and Gaby Gates with nine each, Lily Scholl with three followed by Sabrina Miller and Cam Conley with two each.
Valparaiso shot 17-of-45 from the floor but were 1-of-12 from 3-point range, also going 8-of-13 from the free-throw line. Lillian Barnes scored 16 points to lead the way followed by Gerdt (15), Cadynce Clark (5), Katherine Weber (5), Mackenzie Wassermann (4) and Delilah Kincaid (2).
Northridge started the game fast shooting 6-of-10 in the first quarter and leading 17-11. On an out-of-bounds under the hoop with one second left before halftime, Northridge worked a pass to Gates to slapped the ball to Mohamed before the junior drained the corner triple at the horn to take a 29-23 lead into the break.
The Raider's lead was trimmed the rest of the way with Northridge unable to find the knockout punch of a double-digit lead. Eventually, after Valparaiso failed to tie the game on several opportunities, the Vikings found the game's only tie at 43-all with 2:24 remaining. A layup from Gerdt briefly gave them a lead for 12 seconds before Mohamed's fourth triple of the night.
"Their size, they're big," Springer said. "We've always said all along, our concern come tournament time is when you get to the 4A tournament, you're playing big-girl basketball and big-girl basketball is teams have 6-[foot]-2, 6-[foot]-1, 6-[foot]-1, and we don't. We have 5'10. Our girls fought and fought and gave them everything they had."
CLOSING THE 2023-24 CAMPAIGN
With four seniors on the roster and three in the starting rotation, the final game in a Raider uniform is one that will sting. The longtime head coach in Springer though was undeniably a in-tune with this group.
Speaking afterwards, he leaned into his relationship with the group and what made it even more special this postseason.
"There is no doubt in my mind that they are going to be first, successful human beings," Springer said. "Second, they are going to be unbelievable moms someday; they are going to be awesome wives someday, but more importantly, they are going to be awesome leaders to whatever community they end up in."
"The last thing I told them is thanks for being a respite for our family," a teary-eyed Springer began. "My father-in-law has cancer and [is] not supposed to be around, they've been following us from home. This team has been a refuge for them because they can't get out. These last two Saturday's they've come to watch these girls because they wanted one last ride and these are the girls they wanted the last ride with. I'll never be able to repay them for that. Just a special group of kids."
PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL
IHSAA 4A Regional at LaPorte High School
Northridge 17 12 12 5 — 46
Valparaiso 11 12 13 11 — 47
Reach Matt Lucas at 574-533-2151, ext. 240325, or at email@example.com.