Knox’s women’s basketball program had only 11 victories the past three years.
But this year was a different story.
The Prairie Fire notched their tenth win of the season last Thursday when they defeated the Grinnell College Pioneers on Senior Night, 61-56.
“I thought we came out very strong and really dominated the first half,” said second-year head coach Emily Cline, whose team is the first one since the 2001-02 season (11-12) to have double digits in the win column. “We played well enough to hang on in the second half. We hung on through their runs. I was very thrilled to end the season with a victory and send the seniors out with a win.”
Knox (10-13, 5-11) was bound and determined to get a win for seniors — Tracy Herring, Ali Hidden, Kate Moon and Erin Navolio.
Herring, who played in only 35 games in her career due to injuries, hit a three to put the Prairie Fire up within the first minute of the game.
And they never looked back.
At halftime the Prairie Fire found themselves up by 13 points, 30-17. In the first half, Knox shot 44.8 percent from the floor and hit 75 percent of their shots from the charity stripe.
In the second half, the Prairie Fire did not hit as many of their shots — shooting 36.8 percent from the floor and 69.6 percent from the free throw line — but it did not matter. The lead they had built over the Pioneers was too much for them to overcome.
With 9:33 left in the contest, Hidden, who transferred to Knox from Spoon River College last season, fouled out and let her emotions show.
“I felt really bad for her just because she didn’t get to play that many minutes,” Cline said. “She was kind of in foul trouble the whole night so certainly I felt really bad for her. But I told her to just focus and that we needed her. She did a good job of helping keep the bench going and everything. I wish it would have worked out a little differently for her personally.”
Moon led the seniors in scoring with six points, two rebounds, one block and three steals. Navolio finished with five points, six rebounds, one assist and one steal. Herring finished with three points, three rebounds and an assist, while Hidden finished with two points.
“They are going to be really missed,” Cline said. “They had a huge part in this turn around. They were the turn around. I think that they will be successful in whatever they do because of the character they showed on the basketball court.”
In the Senior Night battle, Knox was led in scoring by junior Jenny Haskell, who finished with 14 points, two assists, three rebounds and a steal.
Cline feels that her team is headed in the right direction, has gained some respect and knows that she is in an imperative recruiting year thanks to the loss of her four seniors.
“Obviously, losing four kids that played significant minutes is huge and it really cuts down on our depth. I’m looking to bring in hopefully several kids that can help us and pick up where the seniors left off,” she said. “I have a lot of work to do recruiting-wise. We lost a big class that was talented and played a lot. There is a big hole to fill for sure.”