If there has been one recurring theme to the Knox College women’s basketball season, it has been coming up short despite great efforts. It happened once again Monday night, as the Prairie Fire lost to Grinnell College 61-54.
The pace of the game was hectic early on as the teams were called for just five fouls combined in the first half. The absence of whistles was a refreshing sight to most of the Knox players.
“I liked how the referees just let us play,” junior guard Sara Johnson said. “Normally, there are a lot of ticky-tack fouls, but this way we get to play more.”
Johnson proved to be one of the key beneficiaries of the open play, as she tallied a season high eight steals to go along with 11 points.
Another solid performance came from junior Steph Nunez, who went 3-3 from three point range in the first half, the last of which cut the deficit to 35-29 just before half time.
“They were doubling our post players a lot, so Kelly Ricketts and Krystyna Williams were looking to kick the ball out more,” Nunez said. “I made the first one and got pretty pumped up, then just kept getting open.”
Nunez played 25 minutes off the bench and finished with a season high 13 points.
In the second half, Knox pulled within three points, but could not stop the Pioneers’ inside presence.
Grinnell (9-12, 8-9 MWC) out-rebounded the Prairie Fire 41-25 for the game, and had four different players score in double-digits.
“Things did not go our way at the end of the game,” Johnson said. “We got cold with our shooting and their baskets started to go in [and] that is just the way it goes sometimes.”
The loss was the Prairie Fire’s sixth in row, and fourth straight at home.
But these streaks, as well as another that had lasted 24 years, ended two nights later against Lake Forest. Though in the first matchup earlier this season the Foresters came out victorious with a 77-45 blowout, the second game proved to be much different.
Down by just two points at the half, Knox played inspired basketball in the second half to lift the Prairie Fire to a 52-47 victory.
The team’s effort provided lone senior Jenny Haskell with a win in her final career home game.
The post duo of Ricketts and Williams combined for 21 points and 13 rebounds in the game.
After Haskell knocked down two free throws to give the Prairie Fire a 49-47 advantage with 28 seconds left, Johnson blocked the Foresters’ potential game tying shot, essentially ending the game.
Haskell would add three more free throws. Though she was just 2-12 from the field, Haskell was 11-12 from the free throw line in the game.
Knox’s 52-47 win over Lake Forest was the team’s first win over the Foresters in 24 years.
“It was amazing,” Haskell said, “Euphoric, really. It was really nice to get the win.”
Knox (6-16, 5-12 MWC) looks to finish the year with another big win over rival Monmouth (14-8, 12-5 MWC) this Saturday. Tip-off is at 3 p.m.