... a System-nation turns its lonely eyes to you? OK, maybe not a WHOLE nation, but we're seven strong in actual followers, plus a handful of others who actually look at this blog.
Long time since my last update, and we have lots to get to. We'll start with an update on the women's team at Henry Ford Community College in Deaborn, Mich., enjoying its best season in a while under the direction of coach Bob Belf. He e-mailed me, and I've reproduced it here virtually verbatim:
Coach Belf: "I wanted to give you an update of our past week. Last Wednesday (Feb. 3), we played Delta College, which was holding the fourth and final playoff spot a game ahead of us. Earlier in the year, we dropped a 20-point loss to Delta, but we had them at home and right now we are averaging 88 points at home while struggling at 68 on the road.
"From the tip, this game was played at incredible intensity and our pressure was outstanding. Neither team shot it as well as they hoped as we went 11-for-42 from the arc and they went 12-for-28 at the free throw line, but it was a GREAT game. We were unable to take care of a two-point lead at the end of regulation and Delta won this contest 82-81 in 2 OTs.
"Saturday (Feb. 6), I was very concerned that the effort we spent Wednesday would detract from the effort we needed as we faced Macomb, which was the team just below us in the standings. Our emotional effort was very good and we were hungry, as Macomb also had dropped us by 11 in our first contest. After a slow start, we ended up getting our feet under us; we ended up dominating this contest with an 88-74 win. Our pressure had them exhausted and our performance coming off the Wednesday game was very good.
"We stand now 5-7 in the league and 9-14 overall. This is the best record we have had at Henry Ford since scholarships were eliminated eight years ago. We have four to play and two are against teams we have already beaten. We may miss our state playoffs but we are head to the Regionals in the first week of March."
A huge thanks to Coach Belf for the information, and hopefully, we can pull his team through to a successful conclusion to his season.
Another coach I heard from this week was Dave Arnold, the boys' basketball coach at Whitmore Lake (Mich.) High School. The Trojans have won seven consecutive games to remain one game behind Clinton in the Tri-County Conference, including an 86-58 rout of Britton-Deerfield on Friday night. Whitmore Lake now is 11-5 and 8-2 in the conference.
Earlier this week, the Trojans avenged one of their losses from earlier in the season with a 99-88 victory over Whiteford. They took a one-point lead into the fourth quarter before leading scorer Colton Judge took over, scoring 16 of his 33 points to help Whitmore Lake pull away. He made a school-record nine 3s in the game. Coach Arnold sent me a breakdown of the performance via e-mail:
Coach Arnold: "Colton just took over the game in the fourth quarter. He had done that on a couple of occasions earlier in the year, but it couldn't have come at a better time. After the win over Clinton two weeks (which everyone should have read about on this blog), we're one game behind in the standings. We don't play Clinton until the last game of the regular season on March 2, so we're in a perpetual back-to-the-wall situation where we probably need to win out to have any chance. Whiteford was a huge hurdle for us, as we had lost six straight to them, including a 96-95 OT game last January and a 109-94 game this year before Christmas. They have three solid players and have really given us trouble in the past, in terms of being able to effectively press them. Our defense was as good as it has been all year in the first half. We had a 10-point lead and an opportunity to create a gap in the first half, but they made a run right before halftime. They were much more aggressive in the third quarter and we got back on our heels a bit. We were up one to start the fourth, and that's when Colton just took over. He has that rare ability to put a team on his back, and he's been as focused and driven the last month as I've ever seen him. Good thing, too -- we play three of our next four on the road, including the team that beat us 109-103 and the team we're currently for second with. One game at a time ..."
It was great of Coach Arnold to keep me, and us, abreast of what's going on with his squad. I wish them the best of luck down the stretch.
Meanwhile, at Grinnell, the Pioneers had their best performance of the season, at least on paper, in a 131-84 victory over Midwest Conference rival Knox on Wednesday. Dylan Seelman continued to be the man, making 11 3-pointers and finishing with 33 points. That effort gave him 35 3s in the past four games and at least eight in all of them, helpig him average 28.5 points.
Everybody got into the act against the Prairie Fire (awesome mascot!), who turned it over 38 times and allowed the Pioneers to take 98 shots. That included a 29 of 70 performance beyond the arc, one of the few times this year Grinnell has gotten off from long range.
Oh, and did I mention Seelman got his in only 16 minutes of run? Are you kidding me? No, I'm not, 16 minutes of playing time led to those 33 points, all on 11 of 18 shooting on 3-pointers. Hopefully, he can keep it going Saturay when Grinnell (6-14, 4-9 MWC) travels to Illinois College. Game time is 4 p.m. EST.
Elsewhere in System hoops this week, a couple of other college women's teams I regularly follow had tough losses. The Olivet Nazarene Univeristy Tigers coached by Doug Porter kept it close before eventually losing to Saint Xavier University 113-97 on Tuesday. Saint Xavier is ranked No. 2 in the most recent NAIA poll. Lexie Heinold led the way for ONU with 18 points and guard Jaimie Buckman added 15 points and 15 rebounds, all on the defensive end. The Tigers (11-15, 2-4 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference) travel to the University of St. Francis on Saturday, with the game scheduled to begin at 6:15 EST.
And the Pioneers of Glenville State College, coached by Bunky Harkleroad, lost 105-86 to West Virginia State on Thursday. The Yellow Jackets broke away from a 49-49 tie at the break to win going away. Donita Adams did her thing again, leading Glenville State with 19 points. The Pioneers (12-7, 10-5 West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) host the University of Charleston on Saturday beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Finally, in high school action, the Galesburg (Ill.) Silver Streaks ended their regular season with a 97-53 loss to Western Big 6 Conference champ Moline on Thursday night. It was the most points Galesburg has given up in school history but still doesn't tarnish what coach Evan Massey has done in his first year running "The System." Last year, the Streaks finished 14-18; they take a 17-13 mark into the regionals, beginning at home Geneseo on Tuesday in the Galesburg Class 3-A Regional. Moline is ranked second in the state's Class 4-A division.