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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Men’s Basketball three games away from MWC tourney

By Darwin Manning

While the entire campus may have felt like Antarctica over the last two weeks, the Men’s Basketball Team has been enjoying the heat they’re creating in Darby Gym. With their win on Wednesday the team has now won their last six games thanks to high-flying contributions from first-years to seniors. Their final home game will come this Saturday, Feb. 14 at 3 p.m. against Illinois College as they look to put an exclamation on their impressive 11-1 home record.

Head Coach Dave Arsenault, center, explains a concept to his team during practice on Tuesday in Darby Gymnasium – Andrew Kelley

Last weekend the men turned in clutch performances in “must” scenarios against conference foes they had fallen to earlier in the season.

“We had narrowly lost to Ripon earlier in the season and St. Norbert destroyed us at their place,” said forward Aaron Levin ’14. “We felt we owed both those teams to be beaten.”

On Friday Grinnell handled Ripon College comfortably, beating them by a tally of 110-83. The next day Grinnell finished off a perfect weekend by beating St. Norbert with a score of 79-65. In their previous meeting the Pioneers had lost by 30 against the Green Knights, who are ranked 12th in Division III Basketball.

The game on Saturday showed a different style of Grinnell basketball, as it was the first time the team tried something on defense besides the full court pressure of “The System.”

“We didn’t play the System throughout, one group would play the System, another would play the zone,” said guard Dominique Bellamy ’13. “They didn’t know what to expect from us, so we kept them guessing.”

With St. Norbert understandably anticipating Grinnell’s fast-paced offense, the men showed them an entirely new look that Head Coach Dave Arseneault thought would be a perfect solution to Norbert’s previous success against Grinnell.

“Occasionally I feel our best chance of winning is to come up with an alternative game plan,” Arseneault said. “Similar to a good fastball pitcher in baseball occasionally throwing a curveball to shake things up.”

This was not something that the team had practiced during the week as they had stuck to their regular regime, but prior to game time Arseneault decided to ask his team to try a change of pace.

“I was proud of our guys this past weekend both for being open-minded and willing to adopt a different strategy and then having the basketball IQ to be able to go out and execute the game plan,” Arseneault said.

The team has been working tremendously on their defense. As a result, last Saturday it was their determination on defense and relentlessness on offense that brought them a victory.

“We knew going in Norbert was a great defensive team so we were going to need to work for each shot,” said point guard Patrick Maher ’14. “I thought we stayed aggressive, hit key shots, and went on enough runs to get us to ‘finishing time’ when we could just ice the game.”

Every player on the team is enjoying the rush of having to win every last game to make it to the playoffs.

“Our sophomore year we had a great Conference record, we were 13-3 and we had a real exciting finish because we were able to host Conference,” said point guard Scott Kaitz ’11. “This one is right up there because the season is coming down to the end and we have to win some games to stay up there.”

The men know they cannot allow any let-downs, as the next loss could mean the end of their season. They will look to continue this streak, which started against Lawrence College on Jan. 22, for the rest of the season.

“The win at Lawrence gave us the ultimate confidence boost and I think that win is contributing to the run we’re currently making,” Levin said.

Moving forward Arseneault has been stressing the ability to close games with a sharp “kill” and switching the defense to confuse components.

“He wants to switch the defense throughout like we did against St. Norbert and we also want to perfect our late game strategy,” Bellamy said.

Though the team is currently playing aggressively, with confidence and force, there is one more daunting major obstacle between them and the Conference Tournament.

“Our toughest matchup is going to be at Lake Forest because that’s a tough place to play and they have a good defensive scheme against us,” said guard Aaron Epps ’11.

The team is very determined to qualify for Conference because they know that this opportunity does not always arise.

“Senior Alex McDonald has reminded me and the rest of the team how this opportunity does not come by each year,” Maher said. “You can’t plan to do well your senior year when you may be best individually because injuries may occur. We must do everything we can to reach our goal of making the tournament now.”

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