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The Scarlet & Black

Women’s basketball splits four, sets record

Alissa Hirsh ’16 hit a game-winner against Lake Forest College last Saturday. Photo by John Brady.

After losing the first three games of the season, the women’s basketball team split two of its following four games. After winning the first two, including a game that saw Grinnell convert a game-winning jumper with four seconds left, the Pioneers lost the next two.

Grinnell defeated Monmouth College 89-80 on Tuesday, Nov. 25 to record its first win of the season. Then last Saturday, the team overcame a 14-point deficit against Lake Forest College to triumph once more. With the victory, the Pioneers are now one win shy of tying last year’s win total.

“We definitely looked at our first several losses and said we do not want to be this team again like last year,” said Alex Neckopulos ’17. “Just having that fire put under us sparked the progression.”

The Pioneers were down 31-25 at halftime and at one point down 41-27. Then the Pioneers went on a 15-6 run to cut the lead.

“The girls never gave up and knew that they could compete with Lake Forest so they stayed positive and chipped away at the lead and we were quickly back in a position to win,” wrote head coach Dana Harrold in an email to The S&B.

Alissa Hirsh ’16 hit a game-winner against Lake Forest College last Saturday. Photo by John Brady.
Alissa Hirsh ’16 hit a game-winner against Lake Forest College last Saturday. Photo by John Brady.

Grinnell eventually took a 56-55 lead with 5:35 remaining. After several more baskets by each team, the game was tied at 62 with 20 seconds left. Harrold called a timeout to draw up the final play against the Foresters’ zone defense. With time winding down, Alissa Hirsh ’16 sunk a jumper with four seconds remaining from the right wing to seal the game.

“It was a play with several options,” Neckopulos said. “Our first option was Kayla [Morrissey ’18] but she didn’t have a shot and she was good enough to recognize Alissa was open on the wing for the game-winning shot.”

Despite Hirsh’s dagger, the Pioneers had to hold on their celebration and play out the remaining four seconds.

“There were still four seconds on the clock and Lake Forest actually had a pretty good look to tie it,” Harrold wrote. “But when that shot missed and the buzzer went off, the girls swarmed one another and were as excited as I have seen them in my year and a half at Grinnell.  It was a great feeling to see and hear their excitement after beating a good Lake Forest team.”

In the game, Hirsh led the team with a game-high 24 points. Neckopulos recorded a double-double with 11 points and 16 rebounds.

Hoping to continue the momentum from the win, Grinnell faced Presentation College the following day. The Pioneers saw a similar deficit as the day before, down 37-25 at halftime. Although Grinnell eventually caught up and took a 55-54 lead, Presentation went on a 9-0 run to run away with a 68-59 victory.

“We were missing that competitive edge a bit on Sunday and didn’t come out as strong as we should have,” Harrold wrote. “We fought at times to take control, but we had dug too deep of a hole. Two games in a row, and three games in five days can be taxing mentally and physically and I think we let that affect our effort.”

Three days later, the women competed against Cornell College on Wednesday, Dec. 3. Like their previous Midwest Conference matchups, the Pioneers prepared for another tight showdown.

“We watched a lot of film on Cornell,” Neckopulos said.” We just went through a lot of personnel. Our focus was on defense because they have a lot of strong players to stop.”

Despite the preparation, the Pioneers saw themselves down, once more, at halftime 42-33. Again, Grinnell mounted a comeback, tying the game at 64 with fewer than five minutes left in the game. But Cornell hit three deep three-pointers in the following four offensive series to pull away from the Pioneers. Grinnell lost 80-72.

“Two of their biggest runs happened because we lost track of their three-point shooters,” said Sophia Gatton ’17. “We definitely learned a valuable lesson that we have to close out and contest the shooters. It was discouraging that we fought our way back and then to have such a close game slip away in the final minute.”

On the bright side of the loss, Neckopulos set a new school record for most rebounds in a game with 23. The new mark eclipsed the previous record of 21, which was set in 1983 and tied in 1985.

“Alex Neckopulos probably had the game of her life grabbing 23 rebounds and breaking the school record,” Gatton said. “She played with a tremendous heart and it’s too bad that we couldn’t get that win for her after she played incredibly.”

Looking forward, players are hoping to avoid early deficit and having to play a comeback.

“Something that coach Harrold was really emphasizing this season was playing really hard from the beginning and not letting ourselves get into a hole,” Gatton said. “I think that’s just mental and preparation and having that attack mentality from the beginning will be huge for us in the future.”

The team will compete against St. Norbert College tomorrow in De Pere, Wis.

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