Sunday, November 18, 2012

Grinnell opens season with pair of victories

I made a decision, and I hope it was OK I didn't consult anyone who actually follows this blog. (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?)

In an attempt to keep up with every team I enjoy following, and to relieve the pressure of staying on top of it daily, I plan to post a weekly update each Sunday. That way, with most everyone playing during the week or on Saturday, I can get us caught up on those squads employing the most wonderful style of basketball known the world over. High school play began this week, too, so that will give us more fun-filled action to follow.

Sound good? Great, glad you agree.


The original System team, coached now by a combination of the creator of this strategy, David Arseneault, and his son, Dave Arseneault (not an official Jr., by the way), returns most of its top players from a season ago. Optimism is very high out in the cornfields of Iowa, I can tell you that.

If the first weekend is an indication, it is well-warranted.

The Pioneers traveled to in-state rival Wartburg College for the  four-team Buzz Levick tournament, joined by Rockford College and Crown College. Given the success Grinnell has had and its unique style, finding non-conference games can be difficult, so a tournament just up the road is a great way to begin another year.

The Rockford Regents were the opponent in the opener, and Griffin Lentsch's 23 points led six players in double figures as the Pioneers pulled away for a 130-101 victory. Patrick Maher and transfer Jack Taylor each had 19 points, Luke Yeager added 18, Jesse Ney scored 12 and Aaron Levin finished with 10 for Grinnell, which led by 38 points with about 3 minutes left.

In the championship game, the Pioneers faced the Crown Storm, and even though the shots didn't fall, Grinnell still won going away. How off was the shooting? Well, midway through the first half, the Pioneers where 6-for-27, and only a seemingly continuous parade to the free throw line kept them within striking distance.

Those us accustomed to Coach A's teams always scoring at least 100 points in a game would be surprised to know that Grinnell had only 25 with slightly more than 7 minutes left in the first half. A great run to end the opening 20 minutes -- the Storm led 42-34 with 3:14 remaining -- got the Pioneers back on track.

They finished the half on an 18-3 spurt to pull ahead for good, and they held on to win 111-100. Taylor led the way with 28 points and Lentsch had 21 for Grinnell despite combining to make only 4-of-28 shots from behind the 3-point line. Taylor was 3-for-19, but connected on all 13 shots at the line and added four steals and four assists.

Of course, the defense was a constant. The Storm finished with 42 turnovers, including 24 steals by Grinnell.

Levin had 14 points and Maher had 12 for the Pioneers, who play their home opener Tuesday against Faith Baptist, then host William Penn next Sunday. Best of luck to Coach A and Coach a, if you get my drift.


The Tigers, now coached by Lauren Stamatis, went 3-0 during the week to remain unbeaten in her first season as a head coach.

In the initial game of the week, ONU traveled to longtime Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Saint Xavier on Tuesday. Imagine Duke and North Carolina renewing its bitter rivalry in the first full week of the schedule. Odd, right?

No matter, the Tigers pulled away from a tight game at the half to win 100-88, using Miranda Geever's 20 points to beat the Cougars for the third consecutive time. Taylor Haymes had 16 points and Ashley Wilson added 15 points and 10 rebounds for ONU.

The middle game was the home opener, also in the CCAC, with Holy Cross College rolling into McHie Arena. This one definitely was a tale of two halves: the Tigers dominated to take a 24-point advantage at the break, then simply stopped making shots. Or at least, stopped making them quite as often.

By the time it was over, ONU held on for a not-as-close-as-the-score-would-indicate 105-95 victory. Liz Bart led the way with 17 points and Wilson had 16.

How different was each side of halftime? The Tigers were 22-for-47 before the break, including 14-of-32 from the arc, and were dominating. Yet they were only 12-for-50 (24 percent) afterward and missed 23 of their 27 shots from beyond the 3-point line. For those not mathematically inclined, such as me, that is 15 percent. Or, 14.8 percent. I guess I'm mathematically inclined enough to round up.

Still, it is a W.

Finally, ONU closed out its perfect week with a 94-90 victory on the road against Indiana University Bend, another CCAC contest. Wilson led the way this time with 17 points and Geever added 16. The Tigers again struggled after halftime, making only 1-of-21 on 3-pointers and shooting 25 percent overall.

The defense was enough to keep them on top, since the Titans finished with 38 turnovers.

The pace slows down for Coach Stamatis this week, with a lone game coming Saturday at Roosevelt University. As always, I'll be rooting for them.


When a coach decides to run The System, he or she understands the extremes that come with it. Have a particularly uneven performance, and it is very common to get blown out. It happens to everyone, at any level, playing any style, it just appears much worse when you go at it this way.

Case in point: coach Bunky Harkleroad's team went on the road against California (Pa.) on Saturday and lost 102-55. Yes, at first glance, I thought that score was a misprint, as well, but that's what it was.

Not much to say about this one. The Pioneers (2-1) shot 20 percent from the field, shot 23 percent on 3s and turned it over 26 times. The Vulcans only had 16 turnovers.

Kenyona Simmons led Glenville State with nine points -- yep, no one in double figures -- and Ginny Mills and Ashleigh Fossett scored eight apiece.

Coach Harkleroad and his team get a chance to remove some of the sting from this one in a hurry, opening play in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference on Tuesday night by hosting Wheeling Jesuit. I'll be cheering for the Pioneers.


This is the program that has former Olivet Nazarene coach Doug Porter leading it into its first season of The System. With Coach Porter assisting head coach Michelle Roof, the Cardinals hosted a four-team tournament to open their schedule, the Chicago Marriott Naperville Tip-Off Tournament.

In the opener Friday night against Olivet (no, not Nazarene, just plain ol' Olivet), NCC led by one with about 6 minutes remaining in the first half before Olivet went on a 21-7 run to take a 13-point edge into the break.

That margin grew to 30 midway through the final 20 minutes before the Cardinals scrapped away to make the final score respectable at 96-84. Kimberly Wilson had 20 points (and made four 3-pointers), and Emily Murphy and Jenny Swanson each added 13 for NCC.

The Cardinals got their first victory of the season in the consolation game, using 10 points from Murphy to hold off Alma College 70-67. Not a clinic for The System, but a nice step forward for a team new to this style.

NCC returns to action Wednesday night, hosting Monmouth College, and I wish Coach Roof, Coach Porter and the entire team the best of luck.

Oh, and if you have extra time after reading this informative blog, take a gander at one hosted by Coach Porter, which chronicles the first season installing The System. It's great.


Another interesting fact about this particular style of play is that often, a player for the opposing team will put up some monster stats. Case in point Thursday in the opener for Knox College, a second-year System team coached by Emily Cline.

In a 112-83 loss to Eureka College, Kelsey Shoemake (no, it's not Shoemaker, I double-checked) finished with 39 points and 17 rebounds for the winning side. Not bad, right?

Alycia Webster led the Prairie Fire with 17 points, Becky Duffy added 13 and Jodi Marver finished with 11. Jessica Howard, a transfer from Monmouth College who played for coach Evan Massey's System team at Galesburg (Ill.) HS, scored nine points in her Knox debut.

This one was much closer than the score would indicate. With about 8 minutes left, Eureka led only 78-72 following two free throws from Duffy. Obviously, it got away from Knox a bit down the stretch.

I caught most of the first half of this game on the Internet and came away impressed with the effort of the Prairie Fire. Also, Coach Cline is very energetic on the sidelines and often encourages her players very passionately. I look forward to watching the progress of this team the rest of the season.

Knox continues a homestand to open the season, hosting Augustana on Wednesday before opening Midwest Conference play against Lake Forest on Sunday. Best of luck to the Prairie Fire.


The Jets, coached by Andy Hoaglin, got back on the winning track Friday night by blowing out the JV team from Calvin College 107-78. I was unable to come up with any stats for this one; Jackson CC improves to 2-2 this season, following a 107-59 loss to the JV team from Davenport University last Monday.

The schedule has the Jets hosting Mott on Wednesday. I hope Coach Hoaglin and his team keep it going.


The Silver Streaks, led by one of the top coaches in Illinois high school history in Evan Massey, opened their season in their Thanksgiving tourney, with four games in five days to get it started. That is taxing for any team, but I would imagine particularly so for a System team.

Galesburg opened with a 70-64 victory over Illini West on Tuesday, as Jessica Lieber scored 19 points, then came back two nights later to beat East Peoria 64-46, with Lieber finishing with 24 points and seven rebounds. On Friday, the Streaks got on top of Metamora 70-40 with Lieber (anyone else sensing a theme?) scoring 14 points.

Others getting into the act in this one included Sharron Diggins (13 points) and Dani Teel (10).

In the final game of the week, Galesburg had a tough against Springfield, one of the top Class 3A teams in the state over the past few seasons that has moved up to Class 4A.

Springfield jumped out to a 12-0 lead before the Streaks whittled the margin down to 11 (49-38) at the break. A 3 from Diggins to open the third quarter made it an eight-point game, but that was as close as Galesburg would come. A 15-1 run pushed the edge to 22, and the final was 86-62.

Diggins led the way with 12 points, while Lieber, Teel and Lexi Daniels each had nine. Lieber is inching toward 1,000 points in her career, an outstanding achievement; the 5-foot-3 senior has has 960 points now.

Speaking of milestones, Coach Massey now is 767-273 in his career, all at Galesburg. Most impressive.

The Streaks (3-1) open Western Big 6 play Tuesday by hosting Moline, which always makes for a great game. Is it redundant to mention who I hope wins? Go Streaks!


No games yet for coach Mike Curta and the Cardinals, but he was kind enough to send a little update on how preparations are going for this season. They open their schedule with three games in three days in a Thanksgiving tournament at Richards HS, beginning Monday.

Here is a note from Coach Curta about the 2011-12 season:

"We finished the year at 10-19. Lost in the first round of the state tournament. We had a lot of off-court issues that negatively affected us on the court. We brought three players up from our frosh/sophomore team in February just to complete the season with 12 players able to play ... down from the 17 we started the season with. Looking forward to this year, however. Year 3 with The System and we are more comfortable as players and as coaches. We had a good summer and a good preseason, so I am optimistic. I think that because have more solid kids who understand and appreciate their roles, we have a much better chance at success."

Incidentally, I discovered last week that Nick Curta, coach Curta's son and a senior on the team this season, plans to play hoops at Grinnell in the future. How great is that? Good for the Curta family, and good for Grinnell.

I wish Nick and his teammates (and their coach) all the luck in the world this season, beginning this week.


  1. Hey Keith. I follow your blog regularly, so please dont stop, its great

  2. Thanks, Chad, I appreciate it. No plans to stop at this point.