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.

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