Thursday, September 22, 2011

Top Ten Moments: 9. Calvin Claims Final GRSHOF Tournament Championship

Introduction and 10. Andy Draayer En Fuego

9. Calvin Claims Final GRSHOF Tournament Championship (November 27, 2010)

I’d like to think that I’m one of the biggest Calvin basketball addicts out there. My idea of a “December family vacation” last year was to pack the wife and the one year old in the car to drive to Kenosha, Wisconsin for two days of MIAA-CCIW basketball games*. But even still, when the Calvin basketball schedule gets posted every year, I mentally cross out the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Tournament games that get played over Thanksgiving weekend.

*I must have the best wife in the world because whenever that trip is recalled she goes on and on about how fun it was, and selling a somewhat similar “vacation” to Anderson, Indiana for this November was way easier than it should have been.

The GRSHOF games are just incredibly hard for me to get to even though they’re always played right here in West Michigan. Doing the extended holiday rounds (parents, in-laws, etc.) generally takes me to Metro-Detroit and Northwest Ohio which is well away from where the games are played. In seven years, I’ve attended only three of Calvin’s Thanksgiving weekend games (missing eleven games).

I’m not sure I’ve missed a total of eleven other games that occurred in West Michigan (let’s call it Grand Rapids, Holland, Kalamazoo) over that time period. I’d have to look at that.

This is all to say that the fact that I even made it to the championship game of last year’s GRSHOF Tournament was a special feat in itself.

This game may not be one that sticks out in our minds in three, five, or ten years, but I currently carry the memory in a special place. Last year’s season didn’t end the way any of us hoped (although it did go nearly as I expected), but this game was a testament to the talented youth that Calvin carried on the roster. Underclassmen accounted for 55% of Calvin’s minutes, 53% of the team’s points, 73% of the rebounds, and 67% of the assists. To me, it was a clear sign that this program could become a serious contender over the next two years.

That evening’s opponent, the Cornerstone Golden Eagles, was no slouch. Coming into the game, they held an undefeated record and a #4 ranking in the NAIA-II. (The competition level of the NAIA-II in men’s hoops is generally similar to that of the NCAA Division III. Being a top five team over there wouldn’t necessarily make you a top five team in D3, but it still makes you a formidable opponent against even the top teams in D3.) And they weren’t just a team that was overrated in the preseason. Cornerstone would go on to claim their second NAIA National Championship in the spring.

Calvin had plenty of opportunities to fold as Cornerstone made a couple of runs to eliminate a good-sized Calvin lead. In the middle of the first half, Cornerstone used a 12-0 run (in just under three minutes time) to turn an eight point Calvin lead into a four point lead for themselves. The Knights ended up taking a seven point lead into the locker room, but it wouldn’t last.

Calvin was able to maintain a lead for the first ten minutes of the second half, but a 12-2 run by the Golden Eagles put Calvin down by four with 6:30 remaining in the game. Again, the Knights didn’t back down, using only 48 seconds to take back the lead. This time it was for good.

It was 40 minutes of hold-your-breath, can-they-do-this(?) action. Cornerstone out-shot the Knights in the offensive explosion (.616 eFG% to .589 eFG%), but you could say that Calvin won the game with fundamentals. They out-rebounded Cornerstone 39-22 and shot 83% from the stripe as a team.

It appears as though the tournament format of the GRSHOF weekend is now gone for good. Calvin is scheduled to play Cornerstone on day one and Aquinas on day two, and it’s nice to be able to say that the Knights were crowed as the final champions.

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