In the effort, Ritchie scored a career-high 27 points on 9-17 shooting. The All-Horizon League First Team member hit 7-14 from long range, tying the Horizon League Championship single-game record for 3-point field goals made. Her 14 attempts are also the most ever attempted in a game in program history, breaking Megan Lukan's (Barrie, Ontario) record of 13 set less than two weeks ago at Detroit.
"We always preach having one more pass, and I just happened to be the one taking the shots," Ritchie said. "We have great chemistry that we've built this season and anyone is ready to step up any night."
The Phoenix opened the game on a 9-0 run paced by triples from Ritchie and fellow seniors Lydia Bauer (Lake Zurich, Ill.) and Sarah Eichler (Grafton, Wis.). Another three from Ritchie pushed the lead to 12-2 less than five minutes in, but from there the Crusaders used a 7-0 run over the next three minutes to cut the lead to 12-9.
"Valparaiso kept getting a lot of open shots, so we kept trying new things on defense," head coach Kevin Borseth said. "When we would try new things, sometimes we got a little too impatient."
A layup in the post from Stephanie Sension (Hopkins, Minn.) pushed the lead to 10 points at 23-13, but the Crusaders answered with one of just two triples for the half. Valparaiso finished the first half just 2-12 from behind the arc for a 16.7 percent mark.
Eichler hit a three with just under three minutes remaining in the opening frame, sparking a 7-2 run to close the half. Green Bay took a 37-22 lead into the locker room after shooting 7-14 from long range in the first 20 minutes. In the first half alone, Eichler tied her career high with eight assists. By the time the night was over, the All-Horizon League Second Team member would go on to set a new career high with 11 shares.
The Phoenix held its double-digit advantage throughout the second half, but was unable to put together any significant runs due to a balanced Valparaiso attack. With 5:19 remaining, Bauer found Ritchie in the corner for three, her record-tying seventh of the game.
Redshirt junior Sam Zastrow (Algoma, Wis.) played nine minutes in the win, tying her career high with five points after making two from the charity stripe to push the lead to 80-57 late in the contest. Despite a Valparaiso bucket with seven seconds remaining, Green Bay's 21-point victory was more than enough to advance to the semifinal round.
Behind Ritchie's career-high 27 points, Bauer added 17 and now has 958 points for her career. Should she join the 1,000-point club this season, it would be the first time in program history three players joined the storied club. Eichler scored nine points to go along with her career-high 11 assists, while the Phoenix's dominant post duo of Sension and Breannah Ranger (Skokie, Ill.) scored nine points and added seven and eight rebounds, respectively.
Valparaiso was led by All-Horizon League Second Team member Tabitha Gerardot, who had 21 points behind just 5-17 from the field but a perfect 10-10 from the line. Charae Richardson was the Crusaders' next highest scorer with nine points.
With the win, Green Bay will host rival Detroit on Friday at 7:30 p.m. In two regular season meetings, the Phoenix defeated Detroit 62-31 at home on Jan. 8, and 71-63 in the Motor City on Feb. 28.
"Detroit is tough, very tough," Borseth said. "I told the team after the first time we played them, what we saw against them in the regular season won't be what we see in the tournament. Shareta Brown is a handful, and Yar (Shayok) is tough on the boards."
The first semifinal game between No. 3 seed Loyola and No. 2 seed Youngstown State will start at 5 p.m on Friday. The Kress Center will also be the host site of its sixth Horizon League Championship, which will be played at noon on Sunday.
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