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All Time Arch Madness Championship Game
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: #1 Valparaiso Crusaders (12-6) vs. #2 2008 Drake Bulldogs (11-7) It is Championship Sunday here at the imaginary Enterprise Center as our top two seeds from the regular season meet for the title. Both teams were regular season champions their first time around, but both missed a chance at more glory in the postseason. Drake won Arch Madness but lost on a buzzer beater in the first round of the dance, while Valpo lost in the conference tournament and had to settle for an NIT run to the title game. Today’s game is an opportunity to fulfill unfinished business for both, and possibly play in the big imaginary NCAA Tournament in the sky. There isn’t much left to be said about either of these teams that hasn’t been said in their first two games, so let’s get to it.
The Bulldogs got off to a fast start, jumping out to an 11-2 lead just past the first TV timeout. Leonard Houston led the quick start with six points in the run. The next four minutes were Valpo’s, with four Crusaders scoring as they went on an 11-2 run of their own to tie the game back up at 13 with 12:28 to go. Leonard Houston struck again from three to end the run, but Alec Peters answered to tie it at 16. Drake then went on yet another 11-2 run with baskets made by four Bulldogs, culminating in a Josh Parker three to put the Bulldogs up 27-18 with 9:37 to go. Drake’s lead was 30-22 with 8:24 when Valpo went on their next run, outscoring the Bulldogs 16-3 over just three minutes. That put Valpo up 38-33. Tevonn Walker scored seven of the 16 points for VU during the run. After the Crusaders extended the lead to 41-35 on an E. Victor Nickerson three pointer with 4:12 to go the only points scored the remainder of the half were free throws. Drake had 4, Valpo had 2, and the score was 43-39 Valparaiso at the half.
Drake quickly tied the score in the second half with baskets from Houston and Brent Heemskerk but Vashil Fernandez answered for Valpo to give the lead back to VU, 45-43. Drake continue its run though, and ultimately opened the half on yet another 11-2 run. Bucky Cox, Josh Young and Adam Emmenecker all scored to give Drake a 50-45 lead. Valpo answered with a 9-2 run finished off by an and-one by Shane Hammink to give the Crusaders a 54-52 lead with 12:37 to go. After Bucky Cox tied it at 54 for Drake, the teams traded baskets for a stretch before Valpo hit a rough patch. Vashil Hernandez tipped in a Keith Carter missed three to give VU a 59-57 edge with 11:29 to go. For the next 7 minutes and 21 seconds of game time, the Crusaders were unable to make a basket and could only muster three free throws. Fortunately, Drake did not set the world on fire in this time either. Drake got single buckets from Houston, Young, Cox, Klayton Korver and Emmenecker, but by the time Alec Peters finally broke the cold streak with a three for Valpo at the 4:08 mark, Drake’s lead was just 68-65. It was now Drake’s turn to go cold, as their scoring would be limited to free throws the rest of the way. Emmenecker made two to put the Bulldogs up 70-65. The score stayed there until Alec Peters scored off an assist from Keith Carter with 2:16 to go, making it 70-67. It stayed that way for three frantic possessions until Peters scored again, this time a three pointer with 1:11 left to go in the game, tying it at 70. Bucky Cox was fouled in the next possession, and he made one of two free throws to give Drake a 71-70 lead. After a charging call on Keith Carter, his fifth with 36 seconds to go, Valpo was forced to foul Adam Emmenecker who calmly drained two free throws. Trailing by three with 24 seconds to go, Alec Peters was fouled on a made basket and had an opportunity to tie but missed the freebie. John Michael Hall, who was in the game for some reason, was fouled on the ensuing rebound and made just one of two free throws opening the door for Valpo again. With 11 seconds to go Max Joseph (in for Carter) missed a short jumper. John Michal Hall found himself at the line again with six seconds to go and a chance to put the game away, but he was only able to make one of two. With one final chance to tie the game Shane Hammink ripped down the missed shot and dribbled the length of the floor in five seconds, hoisting a prayer at the buzzer from just outside the 3-point line. His prayer was answered as the ball went through the net. This thrilling game was headed to OT.
Drake came into the extra frame strong, scoring on their first three possessions (with four points by Cox). Valpo didn’t score until halfway into the frame, and when Tevonn Walker finally put one in for VU, they trailed 81-77 with 2:32 left. After Klayton Korver made two free throws to increase the lead back to six, Alec Peters made an heroic three-pointer to cut the Drake lead down to 83-80. But the Bulldogs were simply too strong in this extra frame. Two more baskets by Bucky Cox, one on a slick assist from Emmenecker, increased the lead back to 87-80 with a minute to play. Valpo still wouldn’t go away. Alec Peters scored yet again, and after a free throw by Emmenecker, Max Joseph was fouled attempting a three. He hit all three shots to get Valpo back within three, 88-85 with 33 seconds to go. Klayton Korver made two free throws for Drake to increase the lead back to five, 90-85. Valpo would fail to score on the next two possessions as Drake increased the lead to 93-85. Nickerson made a three pointer with four seconds to go. Drake was fouled and made one free throw, and Lexus Williams (in the game for the first time because five Crusaders had fouled out) hit a three at the buzzer. The final score was Drake 94, Valpo 91.
Drake had all five starters in double-figures for another true team win. Houston and Cox led the team with 18 apiece while Cox had 11 boards for a double-double. Drake’s three-point shooting was usually its calling card, but only shot 7-31 in the win. It was very much a free throw shooting contest as Drake went 35-46 from the line while Valpo made 23-27. Valpo was led by 24 from their star Alec Peters, who also grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double. Three more Crusaders had double-digit points while Vashil Fernandez had 12 rebounds. As I alluded to earlier, Valpo had significant foul trouble. Five Crusaders had fouled out by the game’s end, and only two starters (Peters and Hammink) remained on the floor as the buzzer sounded. It would have been interesting to see what might have happened if the game had gone to a second extra frame as both Peters and Hammink had four fouls.
As the Drake players and fans mill around on the floor and every single person who has ever breathed in the direction of the 2008 Drake Bulldogs is given a watch, lets take a moment to review our all-tournament team.
MOP- Alec Peters, Valparaiso Bucky Cox, Drake Leonard Houston, Drake Josh Young, Drake Jamaal Tatum, SIU
The voters took the rare step of giving the MOP to a losing player, but Alec Peters stood out as the best player in this competition. It is also rare to give spots to three players on the same team, but Drake played the entire tournament as a team and all three guys deserved spots. Tatum’s multiple big performances in SIU’s two games also garnered recognition. Keith Carter, Vashil Fernandez, Matt Shaw, Randal Falker and Cameron Krutwig were also considered. Consider them the all-tournament second team.
And that is that. Congrats to the 2008 Drake Bulldogs on the All-Time Arch Madness championship. Congrats to Valpo on the regular season title. And congrats to me for finally finishing this thing. I actually had a blast doing a game a day from around the New Year to now. As a guy who remembers most of these teams, it was very fun to do this whole thing. We will get back to your regularly scheduled articles starting next week.
FINAL: 2008 Drake 94, 2016 Valpo 91