Women’s basketball just continues to eke out the close victories against Grinnell, winning Tuesday’s contest by a score of 97-91. The Prairie Fire took both contests against the Pioneers last season by a combined seven points. The key to their success? According to Head Coach Emily Cline, there really isn’t one.
“None of the victories have been blowouts,” said Cline. “Grinnell has a talented group of girls, but luckily, so do we.”
Grinnell certainly showcased their talent early in the contest, ripping holes through and drawing fouls from Knox’s half-court trap en route to a 43-28 lead midway through the first half. Grinnell consistently found ways to thread the needle through the trap, capitalizing on their strong transition play to build their early lead.
Once the Prairie Fire stopped overcommitting and drawing fouls, however, senior Jodi MarverÑwho had 20 points, three assists and a pair of steals on the nightÑbelieves the fast pace of play served to highlight Knox’s strengths.
“Our defense is built around the idea of forcing people into transition plays that they don’t want,” Marver said. “Forcing teams to take the shots they don’t want… Towards the end when they started to get tired, they couldn’t push the ball against our defense and couldn’t adjust.”
Marver, despite two early fouls, was all over the floor, driving, taking charges, getting boards and moving the ball all around a Prairie Fire offense that finally heated up from beyond the arc in the second half.
Marver wasn’t the only contributor, however, and according to Cline, there was no major contributor. She pointed to solid performances from senior Becky Duffy and junior Jamie Blue as well as clutch free throws from Marver and fellow senior Jessica Howard to seal the victory within the closing minutes.
The men’s team, on the other hand, couldn’t show similar fight following halftime. Good inside play from both Knox and the Pioneers dominated the first half, especially from Knox freshman Orlando Brown. A back and forth contest left the game 58-53 in Grinnell’s favor at the half. After trading points to open half two, Grinnell started to hit their deep shots, essentially sealing the game during a 30-second stretch in which the Pioneers scored nine points on an and-one, a defensive stop, a three, a steal and another three to put Grinnell up 18.
Knox’s fate in terms of the post-season is uncertain, as this loss put them at 2-6 in conference, good for third worst in the MWC. Head Coach Kevin Walden, however, preached patience with his team.
“We just need to find a way to get better every day,” Walden said. “We have 20 players, 17 of whom are freshmen and sophomores… They need to work as hard as they can each and every day. They do that, and we’re looking at a good team soon.”
On the other side of the ball, sitting in the middle of the pack in the Midwest Conference, the women’s team has a lot of work to do if they are to realize their team goal of making the MWC Tournament. Knox’s next two opponents are on the road, at number one seed St. Norbert and number three seed Illinois College, respectively. Marver, however, has confidence in her team. “This team is too talented not to make the tournament,” Marver said. “We just have to keep playing to our fullest potential. We did that tonight, and got the win.”