After last Friday’s men’s basketball game against Carroll University (10-8, 8-5 MWC), the name Mitch Tordoff may well be one that is banned from speech inside Memorial Gymnasium.
Tordoff, a sophomore guard, hit two huge three-point baskets late in the game–one to tie the game and send it into overtime with 2.2 seconds remaining in regulation, and the second a half-court shot at the buzzer in overtime to give the Pioneers a 70-67 overtime victory over the Prairie Fire (1-18, 0-14 MWC) in thrilling, yet heartbreaking fashion.
Early frustration hampered the Prairie Fire as the Pioneers jumped out to an 8-4 lead before sophomore Lukas Shaw’s technical foul following a traveling call enabled Carroll to extend its lead to 12-4. However, the Prairie Fire responded in a big way to the self-imposed adversity, going on a 13-0 run over the next six minutes to take a 17-12 lead.
Following a 6-0 run by the Pioneers, the two teams traded baskets for much of the rest of the half, with Carroll taking a 21-20 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The second half continued in much of the same manner, with the Pioneers holding as much as a six-point lead for much of the second half. The Prairie Fire, who had trailed since the early part of the first half, finally gained the lead at the 3:28 mark in the second half on a tough jumper by junior point guard Tanner Carlson to make the score 45-44.
Carlson went on to score nine points in that final 3:28 in regulation to help keep the Prairie Fire lead in tact. The Prairie Fire led by as much as four and converted on seven of its last eight free throws. Not lost in the fray were three key charges taken by senior forward Matt Goedeke, who also finished with five points and five rebounds.
However, with the Prairie Fire leading by four, the Pioneers cut into the lead with a three pointer from Kyle Jones to get within one with 14 seconds remaining. Carlson again stepped to the line and knocked down both free throws upon the Carroll foul. However, with Knox holding a three-point advantage, Tordoff created a three-point opportunity off the dribble using what appeared to be a bit of a push-off, rose up, and converted to tie the game at 56 with 2.2 seconds remaining. Knox was unable to get a good scoring opportunity in the final seconds, and the game went to overtime.
Knox struck first on a three-pointer from the wing by junior Ben Wetherbee and held the lead for the first three minutes of the overtime. Carroll took its first lead of the extra period with just over a minute remaining. The two teams traded a field goal apiece before Knox tied the game up at 67 with four seconds remaining on a back-door layup from freshman David Jones off a Carlson assist. However, Carroll made the most of its final seconds as Tordoff found the bottom of the net from just short of half court to break the hearts of a small, but raucous crowd in Memorial Gymnasium.
Carlson led the Prairie Fire with a game-high 22 points as well as six assists. Wetherbee finished with 15 points.
Red Hawks take close one
To the credit of the Prairie Fire, though, they came out Saturday afternoon ready to play against a tough Ripon College team (10-8, 10-5 MWC). The Red Hawks took an early 7-0 lead, but the Prairie Fire battled back to regain the lead, 9-0. For the rest of the half, the two teams remained neck-and-neck. Neither team held a lead greater than six for the final 10 minutes of the first half, and the Red Hawks took a 38-37 lead into halftime following a Scott Gillespie jumper.
Knox was able to control the pace and the game for the better part of the second half, finally relinquishing the lead for good with six minutes left. The Red Hawks mounted a small run to take a seven-point lead, the largest lead either team would hold the entire night.
The Prairie Fire would fight back again, however, pulling within two following a three-point play by sophomore Ian Horvath and again with 10 seconds left following three Wetherbee free throws. Without possession, Knox was forced to foul, and Zach Meulemans knocked both down to give the Pioneers a four-point advantage and pushed the game out of reach.
Wetherbee led the Prairie Fire in scoring with 12 points. Carlson and Shaw added nine points apiece. Goedeke finished two points shy of a double-double, with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Blueboys take rematch
Knox traveled to Jacksonville, Ill. Wednesday night for a rematch with Illinois College. The Blueboys took this rematch as well, 75-62. Wetherbee led the Prairie Fire in scoring with 22 points. Full coverage of this game will appear in next week’s issue of The Knox Student.
Knox returns home to host Grinnell College on Monday, Feb. 14. Two days later, on Feb. 16, Lake Forest College comes to town in the final home game of the year for the Prairie Fire.