Sunday, July 3, 2011

Finally, here is your season-ending update!

Well, I could make up a long list of excuses for why I never let everyone know how the season ended for all of our favorite teams. Was it my kidney stone that originally got me off-kilter? Was it my time spent coaching Emily's rec league hoops team, then soccer team, and finally softball team? Was it my time spent helping feed the hungry children of .... OK, actually, I didn't do that.

Whatever the reason, I know I let everyone down with my neglect, not to mention all the coaches and players who make System basketball the finest in the land. So I was determined to put a wrap (finally) on the 2010-11 season for all these teams. And, yes, I understand it's July 3. The good news is this gives us something to talk about during the long months of a System-free existence! Good, right?

Here's what I have.


We have to start with the original team that got me so involved with this amazing style of play, the Division III men's team coached by System creator David Arseneault. The Pioneers had a rough start of play in the Midwest Conference, winning only three of their first nine games. A second consecutive losing season seemed almost certain at that point.

That was before the game at Lawrence on Jan. 22, when Grinnell fell behind 60-35 at halftime. Yep, you read that correctly, a 25-point deficit at the break on the heels of a two-game losing streak. Any avid reader of this blog (or even a casual one) likely remembers what happened next, a furious rally by Coach A's Pioneers to force overtime, and, eventually, culminating in a 112-103 victory for Grinnell. One of those once-in-a-lifetime games that proved once again why The System is so wonderful.

Grinnell used the momentum from this tremendous effort to win its final eight MWC games, pulling all the way into a tie for second and qualifying for the conference tournament once again (only the top four teams make it). A 93-91 victory over Illinois College in the semifinals put the Pioneers back in the championship game, and even an 89-67 loss to host St. Norbert hardly diminished what was a fabulous recovery for this team.

Grinnell finished 18-7 overall and 12-6 in the MWC, and Coach A was awarded Coach of the Year for the fifth time. Pretty special. Sophomore guard Griffin Lentsch from Forest Lake, Minn., made first-team all-conference, as well. Additionally, the Pioneers led D-III in three team categories: points per game (102.9), 3-pointers made per game (17.8) and steals per game (14.7). Point guard Scott Kaitz led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, as well, at 4.56.

There's even better news. Assuming everyone who is eligible to return does just that, including Lentsch, Grinnell brings back 91 percent of its points and 95 percent of its 3-pointers in the 16 players with eligibility remaining. A couple of losses came in areas that don't show up in the stat sheet, with the graduation of Kale Knisley and Alex McDonald. Sure, each averaged a team-best 3.9 rebounds, and Knisley was second with 38 steals, but that doesn't tell the complete picture. They were integral in setting screens to free up Lentsch and the other shooters, and McDonald's 55 offensive rebounds at least 20 more than anyone else.

I have to believe Coach A will find the necessary players to keep the Pioneers on top, and it will be interesting to see the progress of Lentsch and some of the others.


The NCAA Division II women's team coached by Bunky Harkleroad enjoyed a tremendous season, as well, winning the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament and advancing to the NCAA tournament. Pretty sweet effort in only the second year on campus for Coach Harkleroad.

The Pioneers (catchy nickname, right?) finished 23-9 and 17-5 in the WVIAC, which was good enough for third, one game behind co-regular season champs Charleston and West Liberty. Glenville State opened the tournament with an easy 98-39 victory over Alderson-Broaddus at home, finishing 12-0 in the friendly confines of Jesse R. Lilly Jr. Gymnasium.

For the final three rounds, play moved to the Charleston Civic Center, where the Pioneers whipped Pitt-Johnstown 91-73 and Concord 110-87 to reach the final against Charleston. Beth Deren made four 3-pointers and poured in 16 points, helping Glenville State hold on for a 77-73 victory.

That sent the Pioneers to Edinboro, Penn., for the opening round of the NCAA tournament, where they fell behind early and couldn't quite recover in a 74-69 loss to Johnson C. Smith. Deren again led the way with 12 points. The end came suddenly but couldn't spoil the tremendous job Coach Harkleroad has done in bring The System to Glenville State. He's won 41 games in two seasons and brought his team back to the top of the WVIAC, and the future certainly looks bright up on the mountain.

Leading scorer Tenisha Wilson (16.4 points) was rewarded for a great season, making first-team all-conference, and point guard Danielle Woodmore was named to the second-team. Also, Kenyell Goodson got a spot on the all-freshman squad.

As usual with The System, the Pioneers led all-divisions of women's basketball at 95.7 points per game and made 369 3-pointers. Coach Harkleroad will have to replace four key contributors beginning next season, with Autumn Davis (10 ppg, team-high 80 3's), Kim Stephens (7.5 ppg), Kristen Golden (7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Miranda Reed (4.8 ppg, team-high 5.2 apg) all using up their eligibility.

Everyone else should be back, and Coach Harkleroad has hit the recruiting trail hard to bring in more talent. Expect big things next season fro Glenville State.


More success found the NAIA women's team coached by Doug Porter, which made it to the Sweet 16 of the NAIA tournament after finishing in a tie atop the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings. Coach Doug Porter's Tigers ended up 27-7 overall and 9-1 in the CCAC, ranked 16th in the final NAIA coaches' poll. They also led all of NAIA in the following categories, besides simply scoring and shooting 3s:

- Offensive rebounds per game (25.8)
- Assists per game (21.2)
- Steals per game (21.6)
- Turnover margin (plus 12.5)

At one point, ONU went two months without a loss, winning 13 consecutive games while averaging 112 points in that span. The run include a pair of victories in Hawaii in the Hoop N Surf Classic, where the Tigers romped past South Dakota School of Mines and Technology 117-88 and Morningside College 113-67.

A tough loss on the road at Saint Xavier cost ONU the outright regular season CCAC title and gave the Cougars home-court advantage in the tournament, which ended with a 101-91 victory for the home team. Still, the Tigers was one of 32 teams invited to the NAIA tournament, and they beat Southern Poly 87-79 in the opening round.

That led to a matchup with two-time defending national champ Union (on Union's home floor, no less), and ONU saw its season end 81-69.

Still, an incredible run for Coach Porter and his team. They led all of women's college basketball with 103.9 points per game (anyone else sense a theme?) and made 493 3-pointers, all while having 15 players get on the court in at least 33 of the 34 games. No one averaged more than the 14.6 minutes of run per game than Jaimie Buckman, and leading scorer Simone Coburn (12.8 ppg) was on the court for slightly less than 12 minutes. Um, and in case you forgot, colleges play 40 minutes in every game. I'm getting all tingley just typing that.

In all, 16 of the 17 players on the roster averaged at least one point, another amazing factoid. You want another one? Point guard Danielle Pipal was named honorable mention all-American despite averaging only 6.9 points. She added a team-best 152 assists (4.6 per game) and 124 steals (3.8 per game, good for second best in the nation), all while grabbing 3.8 rebounds per game, as well. Oh, I probably should mention she's only 5-foot-8.

Pipal also made first-team all-CCAC, along with Coburn and Danielle Tolbert (12.7 ppg, 3.4 apg, 3.7 rpg), and Coach Porter was conference Coach of the Year.

The team should be loaded again next season. even though ONU does lose Coburn and Lisa Beyer (3.8 ppg). Given Coach Porter's history, I know it will be another successful run.


The girls' team coached by Evan Massey simply did it all in the second season of The System for the Streaks: a 28-7 finish, a trip to the Elite Eight and numerous state and national records. So what if it ended what must have seemed a bit too prematurely with a 77-70 loss to Country Club Hills Hillcrest?

Prior to the season, Galesburg was picked to finish in the bottom half of its conference, a tough one known as the Western Big 6. A second-place finish set the stage for an incredible postseason run, with a regional title and the first sectional title since 2003.

And, yes, there are the records. Jessica Howard made 139 3-pointers during the season to set the Illinois mark, and the team totals of 1,476 3s attempted and 397 3s made for the season are national records. Galesburg also had single-game highs of 22 3s and 72 attempted 3s, both state records.

As sometimes happens with System teams, the Streaks started off slowly, losing two of their first three games before finding their collective grooves.

A 13-game winning streak included the championship of the Charleston Holiday Tournament, and even though Galesburg lost its regular-season finale to rival Moline (a game that decided the WB6 race), Coach Massey had his team ready for the postseason. The Streaks won the Geneseo Regional and the Metamora Sectional before losing in the Supersectional to Hillcrest, a game that was close all the way.

What a great season. Now, Galesburg will have to replace five seniors, including Howard, point guard Tai Peachey, Jamie Johnson, Mickey Rodriguez and Megan Young. Three plan to continue their careers in college: Howard will play at Monmouth College (a conference rival of Grinnell), Peachey is going to Olivet Nazarene (how sweet is that?) and Johnson will be at Black Hawk College. Best of luck to all of them.

How will Coach Massey replace them? Well, if spring workouts are any indication, he certainly will have the numbers to do so. So far, 15 players have indicated they are interested in playing for him next season, and there are 19 incoming freshmen who want to play hoops, as well. Viva la System!

EISENHOWER HS (Blue Island, Ill.)

A first-year System team, the boys' team coached by Mike Curta won a share of the conference title, the first such result in 28 seasons, on its way to a 14-14 finish. Along the way, the Cardinals set a national record by attempting 1,391 3-pointers (49.6 per game) and a state record by making 370 (good for third-best total in the nation). Six players, including the coach's son, Nick, averaged at least one 3 per game, and Tyrone Terrell led the way by making 130 of 453 for the season.

The season ended with a 107-65 loss to Crete Monee in the state tournament, but Coach Curta wasn't too disappointed with the conclusion. He has 11 players returning next season, so the future certainly appears bright at Eisenhower HS. Best of luck to them.


The National Junior College Athletic Association women's team came one game shy of advancing to the national tournament, losing to Kalamazoo Valley Community College 121-96 in the district championship game. The Jets finished 19-12 in their first season with The System -- winning 18 of their final 23 games -- and coach Andy Hoaglin's squad should be even better next season.

Jackson CC set NJCAA Division II records by averaging 103.6 points and attempting 1,550 3-pointers. Sophomore Erika Bullock made second-team all-conference and freshman Nicole Wurster got a nod to the third team, as well as a spot on the all-freshman squad. Bullock averaged a team-best 14.2 points and Wurster was right behind with 12.4, while Bullock finished third in NJCAA Division II with 4.58 steals per game.

Here's hoping nothing but success for Coach Hoaglin and the Jets next season.


The girls' team coached by Keith Freund lost a heartbreaker in the quarterfinals of the state tournament, falling to Lynbrook 69-68. Still, an amazing season by the Vikings, who finished 16-3 overall and won their conference with a 12-0 mark. Along the way, North Shore put up some wonderful numbers out on "The Island" in The System:

- Average margin of victory in the conference was 32 points
- Nassau County record 151 3-pointers made
- Led the county with 72.5 points per game
- School record 95 points in a single game
- School record 16 3s made in a single game

Coach Freund returns nine of his top 11 players and expects to be favored to win the state title. Here's hoping he can pull it off.

Well, that wraps up the wrapup, as it were. I hope everyone forgives me for delaying this so long, and I hope the coaches and players who utilize this perfect style of play have a great offseason. I plan to be back with some interviews and other stuff this summer, so check back frequently. I won't let you down again.

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