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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Men’s Basketball falls short of MWC title

Daniel Goldstein ’16 punches a ticket to the Nationals with a dive on Friday, Feb. 27. Photo by John Brady.

After advancing to the final round of the Midwest Conference Championship by beating Ripon College 122-115 last weekend, the men’s basketball team fell to St. Norbert College in the Conference finals 99-86, coming short of the conference title. Grinnell finished this season with a record of 19-6 overall, 13-5 in conference.

Grinnell, who has not won the MWC tournament title since 2001, had high hopes as it traveled to De Pere, Wisc., home of the Green Knights. Following their successful regular season, the players believed they were capable of getting past Ripon in the first round and pulling an upset against St. Norbert, the fifth best Division III team in the nation according to

“The mentality heading into the conference was to win,” said Kyle Parker ’17. “It was to get through the first game against Ripon College and focus on Norbert and get back at them, since we had lost the two previous games.”

Pat Maher ’14 attempts a contested shot against Lawrence University on Feb. 22. Photo by John Brady.
Pat Maher ’14 attempts a contested shot against Lawrence University on Feb. 22. Photo by John Brady.

In the first game against Ripon, the Pioneers established a new school record of highest three-point percentage in a game. Grinnell shot a 61.4 percent, making 27 shots behind the arc.

“The most important thing when shooting the basketball is that the person shooting has confidence,” wrote assistant head coach David Arseneault Jr. ’09 in an email to the S&B. “Once we knocked down a couple of shots early, everybody on the team gained confidence. From there we just continued to get open looks and we knocked them down.”

Julian Marx ’17 drained seven three-pointers to score 25 points, while Luke Yeager ’15 scored 29 points, hitting all 12 of his free throws. With 34 seconds left in the game, Grinnell led the Red Hawks by seven points, and two free-throws each by Pat Maher ’14 and Yeager sealed the game and advanced the crew to the final round against St. Norbert.

In its regular season game at home against St. Norbert, Grinnell battled the Green Knights to a grueling overtime competition. In that game, the foe barely eked out a 121-115 victory. With that game in mind, the Pioneers were confident to go head-to-head against St. Norbert.

“We thought we had a good chance against [St. Norbert] because we had been preparing by watching videos of them play and seeing things we could improve on,” Parker said.

The hostile away environment only added more excitement and adrenaline for the players.

“The place was packed and the crowd was especially brutal,” said Michael Porter ’17. “They called us some names I wasn’t used to hearing. Some were funny, some just really mean, but overall the atmosphere was great.”

The game was a seesaw battle as each team held the lead multiple times in the first half. The Pioneers’ first objective was to force the foe’s main offensive player to get in early foul trouble.

“Within the framework of our usual offense, we tried getting our point guards to drive on [St. Norbert’s Kam] Cerroni’s side of the zone in an attempt to make him pick up two fouls in the first half,” said Tague Zachary ’15.

The game was a stalemate in the second half, as well, and was tied at 86 with 3:38 remaining in the second half. But 13 consecutive points by the Green Knights, 10 of which came from the charity stripe, propelled St. Norbert to claim the conference title once again.

Even though the Pioneers were not crowned the champions of the conference, this year was one of the best seasons in the past 10 years.

“The nineteen wins are tied for the most in school history,” Arseneault Jr. wrote. “In general, our team was one of the best offensive teams that we’ve assembled at Grinnell.”

The season for the men’s basketball team came to a close with a loss, but the Pioneers look forward to doing even better in the year to come. Most of the conference opponents were senior-dominated this year, making it one of the most competitive seasons for Grinnell in conference play. However, the Pioneers stand a better chance next year, since most of the players will be remaining.

“We have a core group of players returning and we will look to add a few more pieces through the recruiting process,” Arseneault Jr. wrote. “I’m confident that the guys will put in the necessary work in the off-season in hopes of adding another conference championship banner to the collection in Darby Gym.”

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