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Published: Sunday, 12/8/2013 - Updated: 2 years ago

Heartbreaker for Toledo women's team

Valparaiso beats the buzzer, slips past Rockets

Valparaiso’s Sharon Karungi (33) puts up the game-winning shot against Toledo at  Savage Arena. UT coach Tricia Cullop said the loss was a learning experience. Valparaiso’s Sharon Karungi (33) puts up the game-winning shot against Toledo at Savage Arena. UT coach Tricia Cullop said the loss was a learning experience.

A year ago, the University of Toledo cruised to a pair of definitive double-digit wins during the inaugural Toledo Invite.

It certainly looked like the Rockets were in line to collect two wins again after disposing of Detroit on Friday night and facing a Valparaiso team on Saturday that arrived at Savage Arena winless in seven outings this season.

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But a young Rockets team that played without injured guards Stephanie Recker and Ana Capotosto learned an early season lesson facing Valparaiso.

Winning isn't a given.

Valpo forward Sharon Karungi made UT find out the hard way when she pulled down an offensive rebound and scored on a bank-shot right in front of the rim with 3.1 seconds remaining to give the Crusaders a 63-61 victory over the Rockets before a stunned crowd of 3,732.

A desperation heave from behind the halfcourt line by UT guard Andola Dortch just before time expired sailed short and wide right of the rim to end the game.

UT coach Tricia Cullop said the game was a learning experience for the Rockets (4-4).

"I feel for our kids because they gave everything they had, just came up short," Cullop said. "The one thing I'm really excited about is the experience our young kids are getting. If you're a freshman, you're not usually in the game when the game is on the line. Yet, we had a couple of freshmen in the game at the end."

Janelle Reed-Lewis led three Rockets in double-figure with a team-high 12 points. Lindsay Baker scored 11 points and Brianna Jones chipped in 10 points.

"We're a young team and we have a lot of things to work on," said Jones, the Rockets' 6-foot-2 veteran post, who is one of only three seniors on the roster. "We have the whole season ahead of us and I know we'll be OK."

The lead changed hands 14 times and the Crusaders and Rockets were locked in a tie seven times.

It was a game that could have easily unfolded with the UT bench celebrating.

However, UT struggled with its shooting beyond the arc, making only six of 28 three-point attempts. The Rockets shot only 36.5 percent (23 of 63) from the field and were outrebounded 35-31.

Karungi, a 6-2 junior, recorded a double-double, scoring a game-high 15 points and pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds.

Jessi Wiedemann matched Karungi with 15 points while Liz Horton added 11 points, including three 3-pointers. The Crusaders (2-7) shot 52 percent from the field, making 25 of 48 shot attempts. They went 7 of 14 from behind the 3-point line.

"This is probably the biggest win of my career," said Valpo coach Tracey Dorow, in her second year as the Crusaders coach after 14 years at Ferris State. "I know we've had some wins that were in tournaments, and those types of things. But as far as playing in a hostile atmosphere because Toledo has such a good backing and such a good foundation for women's basketball, for our kids to maintain their composure when things weren't going well when Toledo was making runs, it just seemed like our kids did a really good job of maintaining their composure."

The Crusaders led by as many as eight points early before heading into halftime with a 35-32 lead.

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.

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