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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm
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Men’s basketball falls in championship

By David Kim

What seemed like a miracle run fell short for the Grinnell College Men’s Basketball Team when the Pioneers lost to St. Norbert College 89-67 in the Midwest Conference Tournament championship game on Feb. 26.

The Pioneers, who won their last nine regular season games in a row in order to qualify for the tourney, beat Illinois College 93-91 in a thrilling fashion in the semi-finals, but came up short against the Green Knights, who are currently ranked 20th nationally in NCAA Division III basketball.

“We really just didn’t shoot the ball well,” said Head Coach David Arseneault. “It was partly because they’re the best defensive team in our league and they forced us to take contested shots, but it was also because we just missed some shots that we normally make.”

The Pioneers only shot 25 percent from field goal, and 21 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

“We knew going into St. Norbert and playing at their gym was going to be tough,” said Scott Kaitz ’11. “Our scorers didn’t score as much as they normally do, and for some reason our legs got tired. We felt like if we played St. Norbert at home, the game could have been a little different.”

The Pioneers’ run began at the second half of the Lawrence game on Jan. 22, down 25 points at the halftime. Griffin Lentsch ’13 scored 26 points, including six three-pointers, and the Pioneers surged back to steal the victory from Lawrence in overtime 112-103.

“We came out in that second half and we just had an unbelievable amount of energy,” Kaitz said. “We had nothing to lose and we put up shots and made them. To come back at their gym and win the game really sparked us for the rest of the season. It kept us going and gave us the energy we needed to start winning some games that we weren’t necessarily favored to win.”

Other memorable wins during the nine-game winning streak included a 41-point victory against Monmouth College and a win against Illinois College for Senior Day.

Grinnell knew that every game was a must-win situation, in order to make the conference, which the top four teams of the Midwest Conference (MWC) are qualified to make.

“We wanted to prove to ourselves that we weren’t losers and could win on the road,” Lentsch said.

The way Patrick Maher ’14 puts it, the Pioneers just had no other choice if they wanted a chance at the off-season.

“We knew every game mattered when the winning streak started. We were working out the playoff scenarios early and thought we may be able to lose one game for the rest of the season. However, as each game approached, we decided we were not going to let this be that one loss and thus we just rode the winning streak,” Maher said.

Arseneault believes the overall group effort was crucial to the late-season winning streak.

“No single person really stood out. It was a total team effort,” he said. “For one game two or three guys would step up and make some big plays and then the next game it would be three different guys that would carry the team.”

The Pioneers entered the conference as the number three seed, with the overall record of 17-6, 12-6 in conference play.

Against Illinois College in the semi-finals, Grinnell had a 15-point lead in the second half, but the Blueboys managed to come back to tie the game at 91 with 23 seconds left in the game. Grinnell managed to win the game with the help of Brian McManamy ’13, who hit a layup on Maher’s assist with two seconds remaining.

“Unfortunately we let them come back into the game but we battled through it,” Kaitz said. “A win is a win, so we were happy to take it even though it was not the best game. We were thrilled to be in the place, especially after starting out the season 3-6 in the conference.”

Lentsch led the team with 16 points while Kaitz had 11 points and five assists. Aaron Levin ’14 added twelve points.

This year marked the second time in three years that the Pioneers had advanced to the MWC championship game. The Pioneers had already pulled an upset against St. Norbert at home in the regular season, and were ready to do it one more time. However, a poor shooting percentage hindered Grinnell from bringing the championship trophy back home after 10 years.

Although the ultimate goal of winning the conference was not accomplished, the season was a learning process, especially for the underclassmen.

“I learned the effort it takes to be successful individually and as a team,” Maher said. “I also learned how much motivation it gives you to be better the next year.

Arseneault believes the team completed a successful season and looks forward to the future.

“As a team we exceeded the expectations of a lot of people out there including my own, and we did so with a very young team,” he said. “Although we are graduating some very valuable players, 12 out of our top 13 scorers from this past year are underclassman. Hopefully, the taste of what it’s like to play for the conference title will provide all of our younger guys the motivation to work hard this off-season so that we are set up for a successful future

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