In a game against Grinnell last week, the Prairie Fire Women’s Basketball team was able to achieve their 12th win on the season. While that may not sound particularly notable in and of itself, the win sealed the Prairie Fire’s first winning season since their 1996-97 campaign, in which they went 10-4 in conference and 14-10 overall. During that season, the Prairie Fire were able to place four players on the All-Midwest Conference team, and Head Coach Jane Stangl won Coach of the Year honors.
While the Prairie Fire took no such honors this season, that almost makes their record all the more impressive. No one player dominated for Knox, who instead was content to share the minutes and share the ball. An especially demonstrative statistic of this is that the Prairie Fire did not have a single scorer average more than 13 points, yet Knox led the MWC in scoring offense at 79.2 points per game. Unfortunately for that statistic, the Prairie Fire also gave up 79.2 points per game, which was the worst in the MWC. In another bizarre and polarizing statistic, Knox led the league in rebounds per game, with 45.2 rebounds per contest, but also gave up the most rebounds per game, at 51.7.
It would have been easy to write off the Prairie Fire, who graduated important seniors like Jodi Marver ‘15, Jessica Howard ‘15 and Becky Duffy ‘15, and indeed other coaches did; Knox was predicted to finish second to last in the conference, despite last year’s 11-win season being Head Coach Emily Cline’s best. Were Knox’s conference play as good as their overall play, they would have been more competitive in the standings: They had the fifthmost overall wins in conference, but were third from the bottom in conference victories (7).
While Knox is losing a trio of key seniors, unlike in years past three of the top four scorers are underclassmen. Cline’s strategy of spreading the ball out and giving young players court time looks as if it will pay off next season.