January 19, 2011

Prairie Fire nearly sweep weekend homestand

When a team’s leading scorer is held to his lowest point total of the year, a victory is not expected. But the Knox College women’s basketball team proved otherwise in a 65-56 triumph over Beloit College (3-8, 1-5 MWC) last Friday night.
With senior guard Jenny Haskell putting up just six points, Knox used a complete team effort to notch their third conference victory of the year.
In the first half, juniors Krystyna Williams (19 points, 12 rebounds) and Abby Owens (12 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds) carried the Prairie Fire to a 32-31 advantage. After starting the season coming off the bench, Williams has become the core of the Prairie Fire frontcourt.
“I’ve made it a point to push myself in practice and work harder in the games. Someone needed to pick up the slack, and I tried to do my best,” Williams said.
With Knox down 43-40 at the 12-minute mark of the second half, Owens knocked down her career-high third three-pointer of the game to tie it up.
“I had the confidence to shoot all night because I knew Krystyna and Kristin [McDonald] were rebounding well,” Owens said. “We knew coming in rebounding would be the key”.
This focus on the boards was reflected in the Prairie Fire’s 14 offensive rebounds, including four from sophomore Kristin McDonald. McDonald (10 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals) extended Knox possessions twice in the last three minutes, and her efforts helped Knox close the game on a 17-4 run.
The confidence from that performance nearly propelled Knox to an upset of St. Norbert the following day, but the Prairie Fire came up short 62-55.
Knox had never beaten St. Norbert in 26 previous tries, and though the Green Knights came into the contest ranked 17th in the country the Prairie Fire seemed immune to intimidation, leading 30-27 at half.
In the first half, Knox (4-10, 3-6 MWC) shot 52 percent from the field and received 15 points from Haskell, and despite going just 7-24 (29 percent) from the field in the second half, Knox found themselves down just one point with 3:41 remaining.
But on this night, Knox was on the other end of a late game run, as St. Norbert (12-2, 8-1 MWC) outscored the Prairie Fire 12-6 to close out the game.
Although the loss was disappointing, the team still came away with confidence.
“We were in it that entire game,” Owens said. “We are playing our best basketball right now and we are a lot better than what some might think.”
The Prairie Fire will have a chance to inflate their win total this weekend, as they travel to Wisconsin. On Friday night, the Prairie Fire will face Lawrence University. On Dec. 15th, in the two teams’ previous meeting this season, Knox destroyed the Vikings 74-50. Haskell led the Prairie Fire that night with 16 points. Williams and Owens chipped in with 15 and 14 points respectively.
On Saturday afternoon, the Prairie Fire will again face Beloit College for the second time in eight days. The game tips off at 2 p.m.
Following that, the Prairie Fire will return home for four consecutive contests against Midwest Conference competition.

Knox stuffing the stat sheets
Halfway through the MWC season, a few Prairie Fire are high up in several statistical categories.
Haskell, who was named the MWC Performer of the Week for the week of Jan. 3rd, is currently fifth in the conference in scoring, eighth in assists, sixth in steals, sixth in minutes played, and 16th in rebounding.
Williams is currently fifth in the conference in rebounding with 7.5 rebounds per game, 14th in field goal percentage and 16th in blocks per game.

Jackson White
Jackson White is a senior double majoring in political science and secondary education. This is his third year as a sports editor for TKS. Over the course of the 2010-2011 academic year, Jackson worked for cornbeltbaseball.com, writing feature stories and columns about high school and college baseball in central Illinois. Outside of the Publications Office, he is an information assistant for the Knox College Sports Information Department and a two-time all-Midwest Conference baseball player. Jackson is the recipient of five awards from the Illinois College Press Association, including two first place awards for sports game coverage and sports page design.


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