On Saturday, the Prairie Fire basketball teams play host to the Foresters of Lake Forest College and seek revenge.
Knox’s men’s basketball team (2-18, 2-11) traveled to Lake Forest, Ill. and lost to the Foresters 69-53 back on Jan. 9.
“Lake Forest is playing as well as anybody in our league right now,” men’s head coach Rob Purlee said. “They just beat the number nine team in America on their floor at St. Norbert last Saturday, so they are playing as well as just about anybody in our region. They really are, so we are going to have our hands full on Saturday.”
On the women’s side, the Prairie Fire (9-11, 4-9) was defeated by Lake Forest on Jan. 9 by a score of 73-58.
“Lake Forest is one of the top teams in the league. They have probably the best post-player in the league, and they have some really good guards. They have an inside and outside attack; it will be a challenge for us,” women’s head coach Emily Cline said. “It will definitely be one of those games where we have absolutely nothing to lose. We just need to go and play. I feel like it’s an IC or Carroll where we are going against somebody that is ranked higher than us but we have nothing to lose and we just need to play like that. When we did that against IC and Carroll, great things happened.”
Teams to travel to IC
On Tuesday, Feb. 16, both the men’s and women’s teams travel to Jacksonville, Ill. and face Illinois College.
The Prairie Fire men defeated IC 67-63 on Feb. 2 on Tim Heimann Court. Their coach hopes the team has the same result away from Memorial Gymnasium and finishes their season out strong.
“My focus and my concern is making sure that we continue to go in the right direction and keep playing hard,” Purlee said. “If we do, our day in the sun will arrive at some point.”
The Knox women decisively beat the Lady Blues of IC by a score of 68-49 on Feb. 2 and have accomplished a lot this season, but they have more to achieve.
“I’m really proud of my team, and I just hope that we can finish strong,” Cline said. “We have accomplished a lot already, but there is still more for us to accomplish.”
Fire drop two at Grinnell
On Wednesday, the Prairie Fire traveled to Grinnell, Iowa and squared off against the Grinnell College Pioneers.
Going into the game, Purlee knew what the men’s team needed to do to get a victory.
“We are going to have to handle their press,” he said on Monday. “We are going to have to handle the environment, and we are going to have to make our free throws. Between the press, the environment, free throws and rebounding, those four areas are going to be awfully critical if we are going to have any success. But if we can rebound, and we can handle the press, we should be coming back feeling pretty good about ourselves.”
The men’s team was not successful in all the vital areas that Purlee established before the Grinnell game and lost to the Pioneers by a score of 131-84.
The Prairie Fire men did out-rebound the Pioneers — Grinnell had 43 compared to Knox’s 47 — but did not do so well in the other key areas. Grinnell’s press forced the Prairie Fire into committing 38 turnovers. From the charity stripe, Knox shot 54.2 percent in the game while the Pioneers shot 80 percent.
Sophomore Joe Kozak had his second double-double in the past three games. He had 35 points and 12 rebounds versus the Pioneers. Sophomore Jacob Lewis was the only other Knox player who had double digits in the points department with 10.
On the women’s side, Knox lost to the Pioneers by a score of 74-69. Sophomore Lynn Mueller led Knox in scoring with 12 points. Sophomores Krystyna Williams and Kelly Ricketts each had 11 points and senior Erin Navolio had 10.
This past weekend, the Prairie Fire basketball teams took a trip up to Wisconsin for two Midwest Conference contests apiece.
Last Friday, they faced the Buccaneers of Beloit College and the next night had an encounter with the Vikings of Lawrence University.
The men’s team dropped an 83-73 decision to the Bucs, despite getting a double-double from Kozak, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“A pretty good effort on their part — they really shot the ball well. Beloit hit 65 percent of their three-pointers,” Purlee said. “It is going to be hard to beat anybody in college if they shoot the ball that well on the floor. I was really happy with Joe. He is really, really coming on for us, and he has done a good job. … They just really shot it well, and I think when that happens sometimes you just tip your cap and get on to the next game.”
In their next game, the men lost to the Vikings by a score of 75-67 after entering the second half tied at 39.
“We got off to a very poor start. The kids didn’t respond. We shot it very well the first half,” Purlee said about the Lawrence game. “The second half, we just had too many possessions that we just didn’t really value the basketball. We only turned it over twice the whole half and a season-low seven turnovers for the entire game, which I was really very pleased with that. I just wish our shot selection would have been a little bit better in the second half and that is not just one person. That’s all the way across the board.”
Sophomore Tanner Carlson led the Prairie Fire with 16 points. Kozak and sophomore Ben Wetherbee added 14 points each in the game versus the Vikings.
Beloit used a late charge to hand Knox’s women a 68-57 loss last Friday night. Williams led the Prairie Fire with 15 points and junior Jenny Haskell added 14.
“I thought we played well the first 35 minutes of the Beloit game,” Cline said. “We played real well, and then we just stopped doing what we were doing, so that was real frustrating. We just didn’t finish it but I was proud of the effort the first 35 minutes. They made plays and we didn’t make plays at the end.”
Last Saturday, the Fire women overcame a three-point halftime deficit to defeat the Vikings 54-50.
Williams led the Fire with 17 points. Haskell added 12 and Mueller finished with 11.
“We found a way to win it, so that was good,” Cline said. “We didn’t play particularly well, but we found a way to finish it. I was proud of that. We will take the win.”