Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Grinnell starts slowly, never can get it going in loss to Blueboys

First of all, each time I post something on a game featuring the NCAA Division III men's team from Illinois College, I can't help but think of this movie. And lest anyone think I'm picking on the Blueboys, they stuck it to my favorite team Tuesday night.

Nathan Kohler made 6-of-8 3-pointers and scored 28 points, Isaac Grapperhaus made all but two of his 12 shots and had 23 points and Illinois College held off Grinnell 123-114 at Darby Gym, a rare Midwest Conference home loss for the Pioneers.

And other rarities were present, too. The Blueboys finished 13-for-23 from beyond the arc, making only fewer 3 than Grinnell in 31 fewer attempts. Second-chance points, which includes offensive rebounding and other hustle plays, went Illinois College's way, too, 22-9, with the Pioneers getting back only 25 percent of their own misses.

When Grinnell did appear to right the ship, pulling within 92-89 with about 7 minutes remaining on a free throw from Jack Taylor, IC responded in a big way. Kohler swished a 3-pointer as he was fouled by Evan Johnson, and his free throw completed a four-point play for a seven-point lead.

Jesse Ney missed from deep on the ensuing possession, and after Patrick Maher grabbed the offensive rebound, the Pioneers turned it over to the BlueBoys (4-4, 3-2 MWC). Zeke Light was good on another shot from outside the line, and just that quickly, the margin was 10.

It reached 14 with about 3 minutes remaining before another Grinnell rally, with Luke Yeager's 3 and a layup from Taylor making it 120-114 with 48 seconds left on the block. But IC closed it out at the free throw line, handing the Pioneers a tough loss on their final game before Christmas break.

Taylor shook off a 5-for-19 night on 3-pointers to finish with 37 points in only 16 minutes of run, and Maher added 16 points, seven assists and four steals. Griffin Lentsch (14) and Yeager (12) also reached double figures.

Once the break is over, Grinnell (7-2, 4-1 MWC) hosts surprising Beloit (5-3, 4-1), with the game scheduled for 8 p.m. EST. I wish coaches David and Dave Arseneault and all my friends from Iowa a Happy Holidays, and I hope the New Year brings them more points, 3s and victories (not necessarily in that order).

Mills off-sets off night with late 3 to give Glenville State thrilling W

The motto of most scorers/shooters is simple: don't stop shooting. Players such as these always feel as if they are only one made basket from a hot streak.

I don't know her at all, yet I'm assuming we can include Ginny Mills in this group.

The guard for the NCAA Division II women's team at Glenville State missed nine of her first 10 shots from beyond the 3-point line Monday night. So with the score tied and the clock winding down, it was only natural she be the one with the ball, the game effectively in her hands. Swish!

Mills made her 3 with 8 seconds left after a pass from Jessica Parsons (no relation), giving the Pioneers a thrilling 87-84 victory at home over the University of Charleston in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Until what proved to be the game-winner, Mills was 6-for-20 from the field and 1-for-10 at the arc, an atypical effort for the junior from Steubenville, Ohio.

Her big shot helped thwart a nice rally by the Eagles (4-3, 1-2 WVIAC), who were down 10 at halftime and trailed by 14 midway through the second half after a jumper by Glenville State's Tiffani Huffman. Charleston slowly battled back and eventually tied it with 4:50 remaining on two free throws from Jessi Cowden.

The Pioneers (7-2, 4-1) quickly gained command again, with Ashleigh Fossett and Kenyona Simmons making 3-pointers for a six-point edge. Once again, the Cougars came back, and when Chrissy Keir made a jumper with 37 seconds remaining, the score was tied at 84.

That set up Mills' dramatics, helping Glenville State avoid its first losing streak of the season after a 101-93 loss at West Liberty two days previously.

Fossett was amazing, finishing 9-for-17 from the outside the arc and scoring 29 points. Mills finished with 16 and Simmons added 14. The Pioneers attempted 93 shots, 43 on 3s, and grabbed amazing 60 percent of their own misses off the board. That figure likely won them the game -- along with Mills and her clutch shot, that is.

Glenville State hosts Ohio Valley (0-7, 0-4) on Friday night, with tip scheduled for 5:30 p.m. I hope coach Bunky Harkleroad and his squad get after it again.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Olivet Nazarene stays perfect at home, goes 2-0 in tournament

The NAIA Division II women's team at Olivet Nazarene completed a 2-0 run in its own Holiday Inn Express Classic, dispatching St. Catharine College 99-90 Saturday at McHie Arena. The victory ran the Tigers' home mark to 6-0 this season.

Ashley Wilson led the way (again) with 14 points for Olivet Nazarene (9-1), and Miranda Geever (13), Danielle Tolbert (12) and Courtney Allenbaugh (10) all reached double figures, as well. The Tigers finished with 90 shot attempts, including 57 from beyond the arc, and forced 29 turnovers.

Taylor Hames led the way with four of her team's 17 steals.

Olivet Nazarene returns to action in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference next Saturday, when it hosts Calumet College of St. Joseph (5-6, 3-4 CCAC). The Tigers are 6-1 in the conference. Best of luck to them and coach Lauren Stamatis!

Knox overcomes huge deficit to win for the second time in three games

Perhaps things are turning around for the women's team at NCAA Division III Knox College. After losing the first four games on the schedule, the Prairie Fire have won two of three, including a huge comeback Saturday against Beloit.

Alycia Webster and Jodi Marver had 16 points apiece to lead six players in double figures, and Knox rallied from 16 points down in the second half to beat the Buccaneers 100-90 in Midwest Conference play. Jessica Howard made four 3-pointers and scored 14 points and Kristin McDonald, Chantal Heckman and Becky Duffy all finished with 12 points for the Prairie Fire (2-5, 2-3 MWC).

When Beloit (1-6, 0-4) took a 69-53 lead with about 14 minutes remaining in the game, it appeared all was lost for Knox. But McDonald scored four consecutive points, and over the next several minutes, six other players had scored in what turned out to be a 22-6 run for the Prairie Fire to tie it at 75.

The lead switched back-and-forth over the next few possessions until Howard put Knox ahead for good with a 3 from the right wing to make it 81-79 with 4:28 left. The Prairie Fire closed it out from there, getting an important victory at home before going on the road for the next three conference games.

Duffy led the team with five assists and four steals, and Knox forced 29 turnovers. A good effort for coach Emily Cline and her team in their second season with The System.

The Prairie Fire have more than a week off before traveling to Monmouth next Sunday, with the opening tip scheduled for 4 p.m. EST.

Glenville State goes on the road, gets close loss at West Liberty

The NCAA Division II women's team at Glenville State traveled to West Liberty on Saturday and got its first loss in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, 101-93. Certainly no shame in that, as the Hilltoppers are one of the top programs in the conference.

And this one was tight throughout. The first 24 minutes featured 14 ties and 14 lead changes until West Liberty (6-2, 4-0) took the lead for good on a three-point play by Jasmin Kiley with about 16 minutes left in the game. The helped ignite a 19-4 run for the home team that pushed the lead to 76-63.

But the Pioneers (6-2, 3-1) rallied, and when Ginny Mills swished a corner 3 with 4:25 remaining, the lead was down to 87-85. Kiley made a 3-pointer on the other end and followed with a layup on the break, and Glenville State couldn't recover.

Kenyona Simmons led the Pioneers with 23 points, Mills added 21, Ashleigh Fossett had 17 and Madison Martin scored 10 in only 12 minutes of run. I hate to see any of my favorite teams lose, particularly one I've gotten to know as well as Glenville State, but coach Bunky Harkleroad's team certainly gave a great effort.

The Pioneers return home for a pair of games this week, beginning with a visit from Charleston (4-2, 1-1) on Monday. Tip is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., and I'm rooting for the home team.

Taylor pours in 36 as Grinnell gets big victory at St. Norbert

The rivalry between the NCAA Division III men's team at Grinnell and fellow Midwest Conference member St. Norbert always has been a good one. It was no different Saturday.

Jack Taylor went off for 36 points, including six 3-pointers, and the Pioneers thrived in a game a bit slower than their normal pace to beat the Green Knights 105-94 on the road. Patrick Maher added 16 points and five assists, and Griffin Lentsch finished with an efficient 15 points for Grinnell (7-1, 4-0 MWC), which won at St. Norbert for the first time since 2006.

St. Norbert (3-3, 2-2) employed a hybrid defense, with three players mostly playing zone and two going man to chase the shooters. It was effective early, help the Green Knights take an eight-point lead midway through the first half.

The Pioneers battled back and eventually pulled ahead, and when Taylor made a 3 just before the buzzer to end the opening 20 minutes, they led 47-40. St. Norbert tied it at 62 with 12:24 remaining in the game, but Lentsch responded with a pair of free throws to give Grinnell the lead for good. The Green Knights couldn't recover.

You can see by the Pioneers' Formula stats how slowly this game was played:

- Attempted 62 shots
- Attempted 33 3-pointers
- Rebounded 17 percent of their own misses
- Forced 22 turnovers
- Attempted three fewer shots than St. Norbert

Not a super enjoyable game to watch, if you're a fan of The System, such as me, but it always is good to see a victory for one of my favorite teams.

Grinnell has one game left before Christmas break, hosting Illinois College (3-4, 2-2) on Tuesday, with the tip scheduled for 8 p.m. EST.

Galesburg HS falls behind early, never recovers in loss to Maine South

Tough trip on Saturday for the girls' team at Galesburg (Ill.) HS, which visited one of the top 4A teams in the state, Maine South. With two NCAA Division I recruits in the lineup, the Hawks had won nine of their first 10 games coming into this one.

Make it 10 out of 11 now.

Maine South (10-1) took a 10-point lead after the first quarter and maintained that throughout most of the game, beating the Silver Streaks 55-45, the second consecutive loss for Galesburg. It's the first losing streak of the season for the team coached by Evan Massey.

The Streaks (7-3) did force 31 turnovers while only committing 17 themselves, according to The Register-Mail of Galesburg, which is an impressive ratio against such a good opponent. Sharron Diggins led the way with 17 points and Jessica Lieber added 15.

On Thursday, Galesburg returns to play in the Western Big 6 with a trip to United Township. The game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. EST, and here's hoping the Streaks snap that losing skid at two games.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Back after layoff, North Central College loses close one to Lake Forest

After more than a week off, the NCAA Division III women's team at North Central College got back on the court Friday night. Unfortunately, its three-game winning streak ended on the road.

Lake Forest had six players reach double figures and beat the Cardinals 88-83 in game tight almost from the start. The Foresters led almost the entire second half, yet struggled to put away the team coached by Michelle Roof and System guru Doug Porter.

Lauren Hernandez made 4 3-pointers and scored 14 points for North Central (4-3), and Larynn Shumaker (12 points) and Maryssa Cladis (10) also reached double figures. The Cardinals finished 25-of-88 from the field, 12-for-51 on 3s, and had 25 turnovers. They did a much better job on the offensive glass, corralling 42 percent of their own misses.

North Central returns home Wednesday to play Milwaukee School of Engineering, with the tip scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EST. Let's hope the Cardinals start another winning streak.

Olivet Nazarene puts together two huge halves to open tourney with a W

One characteristic so for for the NAIA women's team at Olivet Nazarene has been inconsistency. Not of effort, mind you, since I don't believe anyone ever could doubt that of a System team. No, the problems for the Tigers have been putting together two solid shooting halves in a single game.

It might have been simply early-season rustiness. Or it could be the players still are getting re-accustomed to the pace. Or it could be something else. Whatever the reason, I doubt anyone in the program was worried, particularly since the Tigers won seven of their first eight games.

They ran that streak to eight of the first nine with the type of shooting performance we've come to expect from them.

Ashley Wilson missed only one of her nine shots to finish with 19 points and former Galesburg HS star Tai Peachy had one of the best games of her career to help Olivet Nazarene beat Wilberforce University 124-77 Friday night in the Holiday Inn Express Tournament at McHie Arena.

Peachy, a sophomore point guard, was 3-for-3 from the field, including one 3-pointer, and 7-for-7 from the free throw line for 14 points. She also four assists and two steals of the Tigers' 28 steals. Danielle Tolbert also scored 14 points and had four steals, Liz Bart scored 13 points and Malory Adam had 12 for Olivet Nazarene (8-1). Jessica Gerig had four steals, as well.

The Tigers led by 20 at the break and really got going in the second half. They made 12 of their 19 3s after halftime and finished at 32 percent for the game from beyond the arc, all while attempted 103 total shots (59 from 3-point range). Wilberforce had 41 turnovers.

The Bulldogs actually led 30-29 with 5:22 left in the opening half, if you can believe that. Olivet Nazarene closed it out with a 26-5 run to move ahead 55-35, with 20 of those points in the final 4:30. It was a devastating stretch for Wilberforce, the oldest private historically black college or university in the country.

The Tigers finish up the tournament against St. Catharine College on Saturday, with the game scheduled to start at 4 p.m. EST. Let's keep it going!

Eisenhower HS uses late 3 to snap four-game losing streak

One of my favorite lines from a great movie, "Remember the Titans," came when Denzel Washington's character, coach Herman Boone, explained his seemingly simple option offense. "I run six plays, split veer. It's like novocaine. Just give it time, it always works."

I always think of this when one of my favorite teams hits a little rough patch in its schedule, and even though the quote above is about football, it holds doubly true for System teams. If they concentrate on making their Formula numbers, it more often than not leads to victory.

You don't have to tell Mike Curta, the boys' coach at Eisenhower HS in Blue Island, Ill. One of the biggest supporters of this style I know, he understands that The System doesn't necessarily help you win or lose. It's all in how you execute. He stayed positive through a four-game losing streak after opening the season with a victory, and his belief paid off Friday night.

Damien Terrell, younger brother of the Cardinals' leading scorer, Tyrone, made a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left to help Eisenhower beat Tinley Park 75-73. It was one of 21 3s for the Cardinals (2-4, 1-2 South Suburban Conference).

"He's all Damien," Curta told the Chicago Sun-Times. "He's his own man. I'm just happy for the kids to get over the hump. We've had games like this all season and had some close losses."

At one point in the third quarter, it appeared Eisenhower's losing streak was going to continue. Tinley Park (3-4, 1-2) led 55-41 with about 3 minutes left in the period before the Cardinals used a 26-9 run in about 6 minutes of game time, capped by a 3-pointer from Nick Curta, one of two coach's sons on the roster.

It was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way until Terrell's big shot.

"They were crowding the other side, so I popped out on the right side and Nick Curta got the ball to me," he told the newspaper. "It looked off a bit when I shot it, but I called glass in my head and made the best of it."

Tyrone Terrell had a game-high 21 points on seven 3s and B.J. Bronaugh added 15. Eisenhower is off until next Friday, when it travels to Lemont.

I'm very happy for Coach Curta and the whole team, and hopefully, this will be a catalyst to get the season back on track.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Rock Island holds on to hand Galesburg first conference loss

The final score points to an extremely up-tempo, exciting game for high school girls. It appears the reality was something a bit different.

The girls' team at Galesburg (Ill.) HS lost for only the second time in nine games when Rock Island left John Thiel Gymnasium with an 86-78 victory Thursday night in the Western Big 6. The Rocks run their own version of The System, so this one figured to be one of the higher-scoring games of the season.

And it was, even if it was for the wrong reasons. The teams combined for 78 turnovers and 60 fouls, according to various reports, and the game took nearly two hours; Silver Streaks coach Evan Massey estimated most games take about 45 minutes less.

Still, Rock Island won for the first time in 20 years at Galesburg.

Shavonee Brewer went 10-for-10 at the free throw line and scored 21 points for the Rocks (7-0, 3-0 WB6), who are ranked eighth in Class 4A in Illinois. The Streaks, a classification lower in 3A, are fifth.

Galesburg (7-2, 2-1) appeared in control in the third quarter, leading 52-41 with Brewer in foul trouble with four fouls. Rock Island responded with a 20-0 run to end the quarter, taking command and never giving up the lead. The Streaks got within two a couple of times down the stretch, but the Rocks held on.

Jessica Lieber, the 1,000-point scorer, led Galesburg with 16 points, and Sharron Diggins and Rainee Sibley added 10 each. The Streaks go on the road for the first time this season Saturday, traveling to Maine South, another highly ranked 4A team. I'm rooting for Galesburg, of course. Best of luck.

North Shore wins season-opening tournament thanks mostly to defense

OK, so this time, the girls' team from North Shore HS (Glen Head, N.Y) didn't force quite as many turnovers as it did in the season opener. Of course, the Vikings will have a difficult time matching the 64 they came up with against Sewanhaka. That doesn't mean their defense was any less effective in Game 2 of the Wantagh Sports Booster Club tournament.

Caroline Robertson finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds to gain MVP honors of the event, and Alexandra Cantwell had 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists to help North Shore beat host Wantagh 71-55 Thursday night.

Tara Feehan added 10 points and made three 3-pointers, and Erin Sheerin filled up her stat sheet with seven points, seven rebounds and five steals.

"We had three girls with five or more steals in this game," Vikings coach Keith Freund told Newsday. "This team has a real passion for defense and really enjoys getting after teams. We pressed the whole game and were able to convert a lot of steals."

North Shore forced "only" 40 turnovers in this one, leading to 21 steals. Coach Freund spoke a little more about this effort on the Yahoo! message board devoted to The System:

"We are the preseason No. 1 in our class and Wantagh is the preseason No. 2. We graduated eight from last year and one girl moved to Arizona, so many were calling for us to lose big to Wantagh (especially with their 6-foot-4 girl in the pain), but we ended up winning 71-55. One part of The System that so many people overlook is we can lose nine players from a 20-2 team that was ranked No. 4 in NYS and we still return nine players this year (seven of whom played significant minutes). Graduation does not hurt as much for a System team as it does for traditional. 
Big difference from this year to last year's team. This year our offense is not as fluid (because it is still early and we graduated our gazzelle point guard who could take off from the FT against a 2-3 zone and still score), but this team really gets after it on defense. I know it might be heresy, but to me, The System (especially with HS girls) is all about the defense. We caused 64 turnovers on Tuesday and last night we turned them over 40 times with 21 steals. In addition, because our press is relentless this year, their big girl had to help on the press and only scored nine points as she was always 75 feet from the basket. 
Overall, a really solid first week with the girls playing inspired ball."

Great stuff there from Coach Freund, who allowed me to share his thoughts on The System in this post last season. I wish him and his team the best of luck this season.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

North Shore HS opens with simply amazing effort, wins 66-51

Coach Keith Freund from the girls' team at North Shore HS in Glen Head, N.Y., was kind enough to post an update on the Vikings' season opener Tuesday night on the Yahoo! message board devoted to The System.

North Shore pulled away in the second half to beat Sewanhaka 66-51 in the Wantagh Booster Club tournament, but that doesn't begin to tell the story. In a 32-minute game, the Vikings forced 64 turnovers and finished with 47 steals! I don't know if one is more impressive than the other, or if they're both over the top. As Coach Freund pointed out in his post, his team struggled a bit offensively, which led to a closer-than-expected result.

Still, for the opener, it appears the press is in good form for North Shore. Caroline Robertson had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Alexandra Cantwell finished with 16 and 13 in the victory, and both had seven steals. Very impressive.

The Vikings took 107 shots, which was 51 more than Sewanhaka. Amazing. They take on host Wantagh HS on Thursday night, and I hope they keep it going.

Eisenhower HS hangs with conference rival before losing 77-70

The boys' team at Eisenhower HS in Blue Island, Ill., had another one go down to the wire Tuesday night. This time, the Cardinals fell to T.F. North 77-70.

Coach Mike Curta and his sons, Nick and Vinny, who are members of the team, are dealing with some off-the-court sadness. Coach Curta's brother-in-law passed away a day before the game, but he told the Chicago Sun-Times that he thought his team competed hard for 32 minutes.

"We had lulls in previous games, but we competed the whole night," he told the paper. "We have to clean a few things up like our shot selection, but things will work themselves out."

Tyrone Terrell led Eisenhower with 32 points and BJ Bronaugh added 10. The Cardinals (3-4) host Tinley Park on Friday, and I wish them the best of luck.

Knox hangs in early before Cornell pulls away for MWC victory

For a half, the NCAA Division III women's team from Knox College stayed with undefeated conference rival Cornell College. The deficit was only eight headed to the final 20 minutes.

The game unfortunately got away from the Prairie Fire at that point, with Cornell pulling away for a 80-60 victory Tuesday night. Jodi Marver paced Knox with 14 points after connecting on three 3-pointers. The Rams opened the second half with a 21-5 run to open up the margin, and it stayed at least 20 points the rest of the way.

Knox did a good job in several areas, such as forcing 28 turnovers and attempting 42 of its 75 shots from beyond the arc, all important stats for System teams. But the offensive rebounding numbers aren't quite there (32 percent for this game), which leads to less of a shot differential (plus-3 for this game).

Still, against a team without any losses, the Prairie Fire (1-5, 1-3 MWC) dug in and played well. They host Beloit College (1-5, 0-3) on Saturday, so here's hoping the home team gets it going again. Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m. EST. 

Fast-paced game goes to Olivet Nazarene, 94-81 over Illinois Wesleyan

With so many of our teams playing Tuesday, something had to get sacrificed, particularly when family duties beckoned as well. The unfortunate casualty was the NAIA Division II women's team from Olivet Nazarene, which hosted Illinois Wesleyan, the defending NCAA Division III national champ and currently ranked 10th in the country.

(The Tigers, by the way, were 12th in the most recent NAIA poll.)

This one must have been played at an incredible pace. Olivet Nazarene won 94-81, as I guess the headline gave away, and the teams combined for 197 shots from the field. Yes, that's correct, 197 shots. Oh, and the Titans set a school record with 83 rebounds. Are you kidding me? Man, The System always delivers some numbers.

Miranda Geever filled up the stat sheet for the Tigers, finishing with 10 points, five assists and 10 steals, and Taylor Haymes made five 3-pointers and led the way with 19 points. Ashley Wilson added 15 points and Danielle Tolbert had 12.

Olivet Nazarene was 36-for-99 from the field, 14-for-60 on 3s, and forced 36 turnovers. Illinois Wesleyan stayed within reach by dominating the offensive glass (and defensive, too, apparently), corralling 34 offensive rebounds. Three players ended the game with at least 10 rebounds for the Titans: Lexi Baltes (16), Michelle Bilek (15) and Kaitlyn Mullarkey (10).

The Tigers (7-1, 6-1 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference) stay out of conference this week by hosting their own tournament, the Holiday Inn Express Classic. First up for the home team is Wilberforce University on Friday night (8:30 p.m. EST), followed by St. Catharine College on Saturday (4 p.m. EST).

Glenville State makes 18 3-pointers and holds off Bowie State

At this point in my enjoyment (obsession?) with The System, I'm accustomed to my favorite teams shooting a low percentage from the field. It only is natural when the majority of shots are coming from beyond the 3-point line.

I don't think I ever, in the 10 years or so I've been at least haphazardly following this style of play, have seen a team do what the NCAA Division II women's team at Glenville State did Tuesday night. On the road at Bowie State, a solid program from the CIAA, the Pioneers finished 18-for-47 on 3s in an 81-78 victory.

I know what you're saying. "What's so unusual about that?" Well, from inside the arc, they were 5-for-30. Yep, that's right, 5-for-30. And these are solid players, with great touch from inside and out (obviously). It just seems bizarre.

Regardless, it goes down as a W for coach Bunky Harkleroad and his team. Ginny Mills made six 3-pointers and finished with 23 points, Kenyell Goodson had four 3s and 15 points, and Tiffani Huffman made all three of her shots from long range on her way to 11 points. Madison Martin also had 11 points and made two 3s.

The point total was a bit lower than we've come to expect from Glenville State, which had scoring drought of nearly 5 minutes in the first half and trailed 17-7 with 13 minutes left until halftime. But in that remaining time, the Pioneers poured it on by outscoring the Bulldogs 46-24, with Ashleigh Fossett's 3 right before the horn giving Glenville State a 53-41 lead.

The second half was back-and-forth until the final 3 minutes. With Bowie State up 76-73, Mills made a 3-pointer to tie it before Goodson's free throw gave the Pioneers the lead for good. Mills made two at the line with 17 seconds left to push the lead to three, and the Bulldogs had two potential game-tying shots miss in the final 4 seconds.

A good victory for Coach Harkleroad's bunch, which stays on the road Saturday in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Glenville State (6-1, 3-0 WVIAC) travels to West Liberty (5-2, 3-0) in an early matchup of unbeatens. Tip is scheduled for 2 p.m. EST.

Grinnell rallies from 15 points down in second half, beats Monmouth

For a bit more than one half, Monmouth's strategy to slow down Grinnell worked. The Scots held ball on offense and forced the defense to chase, even with the traps, and employed a zone on defense to make the Pioneers take extra time each possession.

When Jon Calhoun made a layup slightly more than 2 minutes into the second half, Monmouth led 64-49. Yet Grinnell didn't get frazzled and eventually became even more aggressive on defense, while the offense started clicking with the high post player looking to score instead of simply pass. The result was a resounding victory for the Pioneers.

Aaron Levin made seven 3-pointers and scored 23 points, Patrick Maher dished out 12 assists and Grinnell rallied for a 107-99 victory Tuesday night in a Midwest Conference road game. Griffin Lentsch added 14 points, Jack Taylor finished with 12 and Joe Rogers tallied 10.

The slower pace held the Pioneers to 78 total shots, with 53 of those coming from beyond the arc. Brian McManamy and Jesse Ney each made three 3s as Grinnell finished with 20.

Luke Yeager's 3-pointer with 11:10 left in the game tied it at 72, and after the Scots went back up by four, the Pioneers took the lead for good on what I would call good, old-fashioned System hoops.

First, Levin made a 3 off an assist from Taylor to cut the deficit to a single point, then Taylor quickly got a steal. Cody Olson missed a jumper but Tague Zachary grabbed the offensive board. He passed to Levin, who missed from beyond the arc before Marquez Valdez corralled the ball off the rim. Valdez, as he has been coached, threw the ball back to Levin, and the time, his 3 swished through the net for a 78-76 lead for Grinnell.

Mind you, the entire time frame, from Levin's initial 3 to his final one, took about 45 seconds. That's a lot of action in less than a minute, but then again, that's why we love this style of play. Right?

And speaking of assists, the Pioneers had 30 of them on 35 baskets. That's a pretty impressive ratio.

Grinnell (6-1, 3-0 MWC) stays on the road in conference play, traveling to preseason favorite St. Norbert (3-2, 2-1) on Saturday. Game time is 4 p.m. EST.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Grinnell opens conference play with two fairly easy victories

Enough of the dumb stuff, as somebody once said. The schedule got real for Grinnell College this week with the opening of play in the Midwest Conference, where teams are very familiar with The System and how to (attempt to) dismantle it.

The Pioneers had no problems in the first two games.

On Wednesday, they traveled to nearby rival Knox College, home of the Prairie Fire, and came away with a 113-76 victory. Jack Taylor (yes, him) scored 18 points to lead five players in double figures, and Grinnell essentially reached all five Formula goals.

- Attempted 93 shots
- Attempted 62 3-pointers
- Rebounded 39 percent of its own misses
- Forced 33 turnovers
- Attempted 39 more shots than Knox

This one was played at a little slower pace, with the Prairie Fire employing a zone for the most part. Anyone who hasn't seen the Pioneers work against a zone is really missing something; using a unique set, they pretty much dissected the defense the entire game and found many open opportunities under the basket.

Griffin Lentsch finished with 14 points, Jack Adams had 13, Brian McManamy added 11 and Luke Yeager chipped in with 10 for Grinnell. Joe Rogers led the way with four steals and point guard Patrick Maher dropped nine dimes against only one turnover.

The Pioneers returned home Saturday to play Ripon College, normally a formidable opponent. The Red Hawks have a new coach in Ryan Kane, with longtime coach Bob Gillespie retiring after last season, and they appear to be in rebuilding mode.

Grinnell jumped on Ripon early and often, running to a 30-point lead at halftime and cruising to a 134-97 victory at Darby Gymnasium. Taylor had a great game, finishing with 39 points in only 14 minutes of run. He was 12-for-19 from the field, including 9-for-15 on 3-pointers, and made all but one of his seven free throws. Taylor also had a team-high five assists.

Linemate (System term) Aaron Levin enjoyed a good day, too, scoring 17 points and making four 3s. Lentsch had 15, Maher tallied 14 and Yeager added 11 for the Pioneers. All in all, a wonderful day for the home team.

Grinnell (5-1, 2-0 Midwest Conference) hits the road for both of its games this week, traveling to Monmouth (1-3, 1-1) on Tuesday and to St. Norbert (2-2, 1-1) on Saturday. I'll keep you posted.


We (or, at least, I) often talk about those games where our System teams just can't put the ball in the basket. Those rare occasions when no one, on any shift, can seem to get it going, which really puts pressure on the other areas of your team.

Well, Glenville State had such a game Saturday, at home, against West Virginia Wesleyan, the defending West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament champs. And man oh man, did the Pioneers find a way to get it done.

They dominated in the second half to win 92-68, but that tells only part of the tale. At halftime, Glenville State was 1-for-20 from beyond the arc and 16-for-50 overall, or 32 percent for those not mathematically inclined. Meanwhile, the Bobcats shot 48 percent.

The score? The Pioneers led 39-33, thanks to their press (16 turnovers for Wesleyan) and offensive rebounding (38 percent for the game). In that first 20 minutes, they had 19 more shots, which certainly helped.

The second half was a different story. The shots eventually started falling a little more regularly, and with the D and the offensive rebounding continuing, the Bobcats really were no match. Ashleigh Fossett led Glenville State with 17 points, Kenyona Simmons had 16 points, Tiffani Huffman scored a season-high 13 points and point guard Jelena Elez finished with 12 points and four steals.

Here are The Formula stats, just so you can see how dominant the Pioneers were:

- Attempted 103 shots
- Attempted 50 3-pointers
- Rebounded 38 percent of their own misses
- Forced 28 turnovers
- Attempted 43 more shots than Wesleyan

That last number really blows me away. A great job by coach Bunky Harkleroad and his team, and they continued their stellar play at the friendly confines of the Jesse R. Lilly Gym, where they've lost only three games in the past four seasons.

Glenville State (5-1, 3-0 WVIAC) steps out of conference play Tuesday with a visit to Bowie State, then travels to conference rival West Liberty (4-2, 2-0) on Saturday. I hope both trips are successful.


The Tigers won both of their games this week, both at home at McHie Arena, to remain at the top of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings.

Ranked 12th in the most recent NAIA poll, Olivet Nazarene overwhelmed Trinity Christian College 93-44 on Wednesday, and it could have been much worse. The score was 63-25 at the break before the Tigers slowed the pace.

Ashley Wilson had 23 points, Miranda Geever scored 12, Courtney Allenbaugh added 11 and Dakota Hack finished with 10. ONU took 91 shots, 54 from beyond the arc, and forced 43 turnovers in this one.

On Saturday, the challenge appeared to be much tougher, with a visit from the 16th-ranked Cardinal Stritch Wolves. But the Tigers dominated throughout and cruised to a 90-79 victory, thanks to 15 points each from Wilson and Liz Bart, who made five 3-pointers.

Geever and Danielle Tolbert scored 13 points apiece. ONU finished 97 shots from the field, including 65 3-pointers, forced 27 turnovers and rebounded 39 percent of its own misses. 

The Tigers (6-1 overall and in the CCAC) finally plays some non-conference games this week, including their own Holiday Inn Express Classic. First, they entertain Illinois Wesleyan on Tuesday before the tourney begins Friday. ONU plays Wilberforce University in the opener and finishes up against St. Catharine College on Saturday. Best of luck to coach Lauren Stamatis and her team.


The Prairie Fire, in their second season with The System for coach Emily Cline, picked up their first victory of the season Saturday by beating Lawrence 90-79 on the road. Very happy to see them get rewarded for their efforts so far.

Jodi Marver led the way with 21 points and Becky Duffy added 19, including a 15-for-18 performance at the free throw line. Jessica Howard scored 11 for Knox, which forced 43 turnovers in the game.

Earlier in the week, the Prairie Fire lost a tough one down the stretch to Grinnell, with the final score 78-75. Howard made five 3s in this one and finished with 17 points, a great effort, and Marver and Duffy each added 12 points. Grace Theisen scored 11.

Knox led at the half before the shots stopped falling, finishing 6-for-41 from the field after the break.

The Prairie Fire (1-4, 1-2 Midwest Conference) host two conference rivals this week, with Cornell College coming to Galesburg on Tuesday and Beloit making a visit Saturday. I'll be rooting for them.


The Cardinals went out on the road this week and came away with a pair of victories to run their winning streak to three games.

First, they beat previously unbeaten Central College 88-83 on Tuesday, with Jenny Swanson leading the way with 14 points. Michelle Todd, Maryssa Cladis and Larynn Shumaker all added 10 points for North Central, which forced 26 turnovers.

On Thursday, the Cardinals won 94-77 at Luther College, with Swanson pouring in 17 points. Bobbi Johns had 15 points and Lauren Hernandez added 14. North Central made 17 3-pointers in this one, including four each from Swanson and Hernandez, and forced 37 turnovers.

The Cardinals are off until a trip to Lake Forest College on Friday, and I hope all goes well for coach Michelle Roof and trusty assistant Doug Porter.


Remember when the Jets were struggling? I hardly do, either. Coach Andy Hoaglin's bunch certainly appears to have it going, and even a busy stretch of four games in six days couldn't slow it down.

Jackson CC finished 4-0 for the week to improve its record to 6-3. No stats are available, but here is an update from associate head coach Eric Salsbury, via the Run-and-Gun message board on Yahoo!:

"Our ladies went 4-0 this week and improved to 6-3.  Started off with a 82-75 win at Calvin JV on Monday.  Didn't play especially well, but were able to pull it out late.  Beat Olivet College JV 107-71 on Wednesday and finally went off from deep with 21 treys.  On Thursday turned around and beat Adrian College JV 125-60 with another 21 threes.  Ended the week today with a 118-93 win at Rochester College JV - we really stunk from deep, only hitting 19:-)

Today's game was the most impressive. Rochester had 14 players and even in our fourth game of the week, we took their legs. We noticed a few really cool things that indicate our young team (16 freshmen out of 21 players) are starting to get it. Our players were really enthusiastic before the game and very vocal in support of each other throughout. Not sure I've ever seen a team so loud on the bench for an entire game. Our groups were communicating with each other on the bench ('I'm going to the fade this time, it's been open,' 'I want you to curl and I'll get you a great look,' etc.). Also, on the defensive end, we flew around the court. There were probably only a handful of defensive possessions where we didn't at least have a chance to create a turnover. No stats, but we estimate that we forced more than 50 turnovers.

Other cool things. The Rochester coach said that was a great time for her team and they were happy to score 93. A young man was talking to us after the game and said, 'Coaches, that was so much fun to watch. I really enjoyed it.'"

Great job by the Jets, who get the chance to avenge two losses from earlier in the season this week. They travel to Henry Ford CC on Wednesday before hosting Mott CC on Saturday. Here's hoping that winning streak reaches six games.


The Silver Streaks completed a 2-0 week, including a hard-fought victory on Thursday against Western Big 6 rival Quincy. The final was 75-67 in overtime, but the numbers really told the story of how coach Evan Massey's team gutted this one out.

Galesburg finished 5-for-35 on 3-pointers and gave up a school-record 73 rebounds, yet still won. The Streaks did it by getting to the free throw line (they shot 40 free throws) and turning over Quincy (they forced 50 turnovers for the game).

Jessica Lieber led the way with 24 points and four steals, and Sharron Diggins had 11 points.

On Saturday, Galesburg beat Dunlap 80-66, with Diggins pouring in 29 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and getting seven steals. Casey Williams added 10 points. The Streaks shot 44 3-pointers (and made eight) and forced 37 turnovers (leading to 23 steals).

Galesburg (7-1, 2-0 WB6) hosts Rock Island on Thursday in a battle of the only two unbeaten teams in the conference, then travels to Maine South on Saturday. I hope they have a great week.

The Cardinals, coached by Mike Curta, lost their only game of the week, falling on the road to T.F. South 104-94 on Friday. No stats were available, but here is a report from Coach Curta via the message board.

"We lost 104-94 on Friday night to fall to 1-3 and 0-1 in our league. Played a solid first half and up 51-47 at that point. Slipped in terms of execution and enthusiasm in the third, but managed to go up by 5. Bottom fell out over the course of two stretches in the fourth and outscored 31-16 that period. Losing the last three is getting tough because we play well enough during stretches to create pace and execute, but we really tighten up late in the game and find ways to lose instead of finishing teams off. Teams are going to follow the lead of the guy on the bench, so trying to find ways to get the kids mind off the score and focus on the process. We can feel the kids losing trust and confidence when our opponent makes any kind of a run or when the game is close late. We will turn it over late, lose defensive focus, and then stand around and 'hope' shots go in instead of 'go getting it' on the offensive glass. Not a great formula for winning games, but I believe we will be OK … just need that breakthrough moment to instill confidence in the kids." 

Eisenhower hosts T.F. North on Tuesday, and we'll be rooting for the home team.