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Men’s Basketball finishes regular season with big win

Men%E2%80%99s+Basketball+defeated+Lake+Forest+on+Senior+Day.
Men’s Basketball defeated Lake Forest on Senior Day.
Men’s Basketball defeated Lake Forest on Senior Day.

By Seth Bartusek
bartusek@grinnell.edu

Last Saturday, Grinnell Men’s Basketball finished up their regular season schedule with a thrilling 125-119 win over Lake Forest College. With this win, Grinnell moves to 19-5 overall, 15-3 in conference, while also going undefeated at home for the first time in seven years.

Among several notable players was Vinny Curta ‘19, who scored 39 points en route to the Pioneers victory while also setting the NCAA DIII record for career free throws attempted, 942, breaking the previous record of 928. Also factoring in to the Pioneers win was Jackson Qualley ‘22, who scored 24 points, Ky-Sean Johnson ‘19, with 18 including six three-pointers, and Will Beebee ‘22, who added 14 points and four rebounds.

“I think our chemistry and camaraderie was on display primarily and our ability to keep putting points on the board top to bottom was most distinct,” said Griffin Boehm ‘19. “Our intensity was consistent and the competitive nature was there, but we also had guys buying into roles and stepping up and making shots when we needed it.”

The Pioneers began the game in an early hole, giving up a substantial lead to Lake Forest at the 10-minute mark of the first half. Contributing to Lake Forest’s hot start was Sam Husting, who made seven straight three-pointers in the first half, ending the game 11-14 from deep. However, the Pioneers made a comeback, driven by Curta breaking the free throw attempt record mid-way through the first half, and took a 63-62 lead into the second half.

The Pioneers continued to put on the pressure throughout the rest of the game, going on several scoring runs. Lake Forest evened the score with four minutes to go, but Curta put the game away by making two free-throws with a minute left. He finished with a double-double, 39 points and 10 assists, becoming eighth in school history in free throw attempts and seventh in school history in assists in a season, with 149 assists.

“There were a lot of momentum swings throughout that game; they hit a ton of threes and had a bunch of huge dunks so you have to give them credit for that,” Boehm said. “To respond to those types of big plays in the fashion that we did especially late in the game is huge for us.”

It was Senior Day for the Pioneers, and the team, as well as the crowd, honored their three graduating players, Boehm, Curta and Johnson, for their accomplishments over the past four years.

“We have a lot of young guys, I think 20 of our 26 players are underclassmen, and they have been big role players for us down the road,” Boehm said. “But playing with Vinny [Curta] and Ky-Sean [Johnson] is great, we all have different roles and are effective in different ways so we can all be on the court at the same time or play on different lines and bring different things to the table.”

Saturday’s back-and-forth affair against Lake Forest was only a preview of what is yet to come this postseason. The Pioneers finished second in the Midwest Conference, qualifying them for the Conference Tournament that begins today. They will rematch against Lake Forest in the first round, this time playing on a neutral court at St. Norbert in De Pere, Wisconsin.

“I feel like they gave us their best punch [on Saturday]. They shot really well from the field and hit 18-31 from three which is impressive,” Boehm said. “But coming out on top of that game really sets us up well for Friday and gives us some momentum going into the Tournament.”

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