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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Men’s Basketball off to MWC Tourney as second seed

By Natalie Duncombe & Claire Weidman

The Grinnell Men’s basketball team won convincingly against conference leader Lake Forest College with a score of 112-101 in their final conference game of the season. This weekend, they will head to Lake Forest for the Midwest Conference (MWC) Tournament with an overall record of 18-4.

“We had been playing really poorly coming into that game for like the last 3 or 4 games and then all of a sudden we played our best game of the year, which was nice to see,” said Head Coach David Arseneault ’09. “Griffin [Lentsch ’13] was able to stop a couple of mini-runs for them, especially in the first half, and even though we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from behind the three point line, just our energy and our defense were pretty fun to watch.”

Tague Zachary ‘15 and Xander Strek ‘12 go for a jump ball during Tuesday’s practice. Photograph by Joey Brown

Leading performers in the men’s victory against Lake Forest include Lentsch with 28 points (10/10 from the free-throw line), Matt Chalupa ’12 with 17 points and five rebounds, Pat Maher ’14 with 12 points and Dominique Bellamy ’13 with 10 points, five rebounds and four steals.

“Everyone came out jacked, and the crowd was really loud, and we played well,” said Captain Matt Chalupa. “It was nice to go out that way.”

Seeded second, the Pioneers are focused on playing three seed St. Norbert in their first game of the MWC tournament on Friday, Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. They split games against St. Norbert during the regular season, winning at home and losing away, but playing at Lake Forest will be an advantage for the Pioneers.

“The semi-final game is on Friday night, and it’s nice to play in Chicago just because we have so many people on the team, so many alumni in the area–a lot of parents–so it is kind of like home away from home for us. It’ll be nice to be in a friendly environment,” Arseneault said.

The Pioneers played every team in conference twice during regular season and are making minimal changes to their game strategy going into the tournament this weekend.

“We made a slight tweak to our press, so we’re not giving up deep balls for lay-ups. Besides that, we play the same way,” Chalupa said.

The Pioneers are feeling good about their chances in the tournament, but are reluctant to look too far past Friday’s game.

“We’re all feeling pretty good. I think we’ve just got to come out as fast as we did against Lake Forest, and we should be all right,” said Captain Xander Strek ’12. “We’ve just got to look at it one game at a time. We’re looking forward to St. Norbert. We’re just focused on that right now.”

“The top four teams that made it are all very good, and if we go up there and we play well I could see us winning two games. If we go up there and we don’t play that well, we could be done after the first night. There’s not a lot of margin for error. So, the hope is that we can get some stuff taken care of this week at practice and get ready to put our best foot forward,” said Coach Arseneault.

If the Pioneers are successful on Friday night, they will move on to play the winner of the other semi-final game on Saturday for the conference title. This will be either one seed Lake Forest or four seed Carroll University. The Pioneers were 2-0 against Lake Forest during the regular season and split games with Carroll.

The final winner of the MWC tournament receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament. The Pioneers have not made it to the National Tournament since the 2000-2001 season.

“Just about every year we’re in our conference tournament, but we haven’t been able to string it together for two games in the conference tournament to get [to the Division III tournament], but it would be nice,” said Arseneault. “I know it’s been a goal for the guys since the beginning of the season. That’s what they’ve been talking about: winning conference and then making the national tournament.”

Regardless of the outcome of this weekend, the Pioneers are proud of their season as they say goodbye to three seniors—Chalupa, Strek, and Captain Matt Skelly ’12.

“We’ve had a really great year, a lot of good memories, some great guys, and it’s been fun,” Strek said.

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