Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grinnell keeps it going, and two high school teams open with victories

Last season, when NCAA Division III Grinnell had its struggles, a trip to Buena Vista led to a 41-point loss. It wasn't pretty.

Yet the return engagement might have made up for it. This year, instead of playing in the friendly confines of Darby Gym, as quaint a location as you'll ever find, Pioneers coach David Arseneault moved the game down Interstate 80 to Des Moines, Iowa, and Wells Fargo Arena. Grinnell and Buena Vista served as a preliminary game for the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League. I'm guessing the fans at the game enjoyed the action.

Matt Chalupa made six 3-pointers and Jesse Ney and Matt Skelly added four apiece to lead the Pioneers to a 113-105 victory Monday night. Winning any time is great; doing so when one of your best players (Griffin Lentsch) shoots 2-for-21 from the field and 2-for-15 on 3s is even better.

Others helped out a bunch, as always in The System. Chalupa led six players in double figures with 22 points, with Ney (13), Skelly (12), freshman Aaron Levin (11), Brian McManamy (11) and Marques Valdez (10) all chipping in for Grinnell (2-0). Other numbers were just as impressive as scoring, with Kale Knisley (eight rebounds in only 9 minutes of run) and freshman point guard Patrick Maher (five assists, five rebounds and three steals) helping out in other ways.

Of course, even the players doing the scoring filled up other portions of their stat sheets. McManamy added four rebounds, four assists, five blocks and two steals and Chalupa finished with five assists and two steals. Now, on to The Formula goals:

- Attempted 106 shots (94 is the goal)
- Attempted 74 3-pointers (47 is the goal)
- Controlled 35 percent of its own misses (33 percent is the goal)
- Attempted 38 more shots than Buena Vista (25 is the goal)
- Forced 35 turnovers (32 is the goal)

So, let's see, that appears to be 5-for-5 on the goals, which, according to history, leads to a victory 95 percent of the time. Count this one among that number.

Despite that, this one wasn't easy. Buena Vista used two free throws from Sam Moser to take a 79-69 lead with 12:55 left in the second half before Grinnell rallied. Maher made a 3 and McManamy got inside for a layup to cut the margin to five, then a couple of minutes later, consecutive 3-pointers by Levin and Skelly gave the Pioneers a 90-88 lead.

Buena Vista took its final lead when Trent Fisher converted one of two at the line for a 101-100 advantage before Levin put Grinnell ahead to stay with two free throws of his own. When it again was one at 104-103, Chalupa stepped up with a huge jumper from outside the arc to increase the lead to four, and the Pioneers never looked back.

Quite a turnaround from last year's game, when Buena Vista won 126-85.

Oh, and by the way, that professional game later in the night? The one involving the NBA Development League? The Energy beat the Dakota Wizards 111-103 -- there were four more combined points in the Grinnell game! Nice.

Anyway, Coach A and his team has a quick turnaround and will host Faith Baptist on Tuesday night at Darby. Game time is 8 p.m. EST, which is coming up soon. Good luck, Pioneers.

Now, a couple of high schools running The System for the first time opened their seasons Monday night, and the results were stunning. Mike Curta from Eisenhower HS in Blue Island, Ill., an recent interview subject for ye ol' blog, watched his team beat Richards HS 97-95 in overtime. I would try to explain it, but I thought it would better to let Coach Curta do so. He was gracious enough to send a report on the game shortly after midnight:

Coach Curta: "First game running The System. Opened up tonight against a district rival who we haven't beaten since 2004. They had won the state championship in 2008. We won 97-95 in OT. The most unbelievable game I have been a part of in years.

"Don't have all the stats as far as our goals because my assistant coaches lost their minds trying to keep up. Easily took 80 shots and made 19 3s for the game. Our goal was 32 attempts from the 3 and we blew that out of the water. I am sure that we met our turnover goal of 26 because we forced 18 in the first half before our coaches got fried! Our preferred shooter in our first group had 29 points and made 6 3s. He missed his last four before canning a 3 with 4 seconds left in regulation.

"Then to make matters all the more fun on a personal level, my son cans his third 3 off of the jump ball in OT and we never look back. Game was 7 with 28 seconds to go and we allowed a couple of buckets because they couldn't stop the clock. (Richards) nearly reached their melting point, but a scoring dispute in the third quarter delayed the game for five minutes and they got a second wind. We also put them in the super bonus for the whole fourth quarter, but found a way to get the win.

"More importantly, the students at our place were going crazy the whole game. Parents loved it, our kids were going crazy and it was just a blast. Of course the win made it really sweet, but as I told our AD during the game. I can guarantee that our gate is going to be bigger tomorrow. Word of mouth is going to spread about the craziness at our games."

Oh, yeah. Coach Curta and the Cardinals get to do it all again Tuesday night, playing Marist at 8:30 EST. Go get 'em.

Finally, Atwood-Hammond HS in Atwood, Ill., also opened a tournament with a huge victory, winning 100-55 against an opponent to-be-determined. Actually, obviously, the opponent was determined, I just don't know who it was. Coach Bill Lyons posted the results, which I wanted to get to you, but he left out who his team played. Probably being nice.

Atwood-Hammond finished 40-for-110 from the field, including 9-for-50 on 3-pointers, rebounded 53 percent of its own misses and forced 34 turnovers. All that led to a shot advantage of 49. Hard to lose with those numbers.

Good luck Coach Lyons and his team, and I will do my best to provide regular updates on them.

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