Erin Lillis `24 celebrates with her teammates during the Feb. 7 game against Illinois College. The Pioneers won 78-63 to secure Head Women’s Basketball Coach Dana Harrold’s 100th career victory.
Erin Lillis `24 celebrates with her teammates during the Feb. 7 game against Illinois College. The Pioneers won 78-63 to secure Head Women’s Basketball Coach Dana Harrold’s 100th career victory.
Marc Duebener

Women’s basketball secures 100th win for Coach Harrold, climbs to 3rd in MWC

As the Grinnell women’s basketball team looks to secure a top-four finish in the Midwest Conference, opposing teams have employed various defensive tactics, with varying success. While the Grinnell offense seems to revolve around Erin Lillis `24, who has no trouble delivering high-quality performances, teams have tried to target the weaknesses in Grinnell’s defense to win games, particularly Grinnell’s defensive rebounding and two-point shot defense.

“We’re just trying to constantly attack, trying to constantly put the pressure on them,” Knox Women’s Basketball Head Coach Seth McDowell said, describing how his team prepared to face Grinnell. “But they’re a really well-coached team and they adjust to that.” 

Nikki Ware `25 defends against an Illinois College player during the Feb. 7 game that saw the Pioneers rise to third in the Midwest Conference. (Marc Duebener)

Such an aggressive philosophy seems to work well against the Pioneers. Although Grinnell eventually came away with a win in the Jan. 23 game against Knox, it took an overtime period to set the two teams apart. Knox attacked the basket heavily throughout the game, registering 61 2-point shots compared to Grinnell’s 43. In the end, it was Grinnell’s ability to actually make those shots that made the difference, winning 97-91 in overtime. 

Despite McDowell describing his team as “undersized,” Knox managed to get more offensive rebounds than Grinnell, 13 to 11. In an interview earlier this season, Grinnell coach Dana Harrold talked about the importance of rebounding to the Grinnell team. 

“We want to hold teams to one shot and out and then we’ve got to rebound from every position,” Harrold said. 

“Rebounding is something that a lot of coaches say, ‘oh, if you have the will, you’re going to rebound. It doesn’t take a lot of skill,’” Harrold said. “Well, we’ve tried to work on the skill of it. The shot goes up, you react to it, you box out, you check your player, you go get the ball.”

In Grinnell’s two losses since the Knox game, rebounding and two-point shooting have been the disparity between victors and vanquished. In their 61-55 loss at Illinois College on Jan. 27, Grinnell only had 10 offensive rebounds compared to their opponent’s 23. Two games later, in a blowout 82-63 loss at Lake Forest College, Grinnell attempted 32 2-point shots, 12 fewer than Lake Forest’s 44. 

So in Grinnell’s 78-63 win in the Pioneers’ revenge match against Illinois, two things should have been true. First, Grinnell should have limited the amount of two-point shots taken by Illinois, and second, Grinnell should have had more offensive rebounds. After all, those were the factors that McDowell and Harrold said worked for and against the Pioneers. Except neither goal was met. Illinois took 49 2-pointers, while Grinnell could only manage 30. Grinnell registered their second-lowest offensive rebound total for the season, with only five. Illinois had 22. 

So how did they win? 

In what proved to be Harrold’s 100th win for the Pioneers, the offense clicked. Grinnell shot with 40.4% accuracy from the field and an incredible 40.7% from the 3-point line, compared to Illinois’ 33.3% and 21.7% respectively. 

Erin Lillis `24 takes a free throw during the game against Illinois College. (Marc Duebener)

Lillis scored 25 points and registered 3 Grinnell season-high stats, with 11 free throws made, 7 assists and 7 steals, the latter two being career highs for Lillis as well. Nikki Ware `25 and Sara Booher `25 each had 12 points, helping Grinnell comfortably defeat the Lady Blues by 15 points.

This win propelled Grinnell into third in the conference, which if sustained, would result in a playoff appearance one year after Grinnell missed out by three heartbreaking points.

Grinnell are back in Darby Gymnasium in the Charles Benson Bear ‘39 Recreation and Athletic Center Saturday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. to face Monmouth College.

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