Thursday, February 12, 2015

Calvin Clinches MIAA Tournament Spot With Big Win over Kalamazoo

Calvin strolled into Kalamazoo on Wednesday night and did something they've done precious few times this MIAA season: play 40 minutes of high-quality basketball on both ends of the floor. You could consider the first meetings with Hope and Olivet as such, but other than that they've too often allowed weaker teams to (1) hang around or (2) mount a comeback after they were nearly put away.

That didn't happen on Wednesday as the Knights rolled to a 92-63 road win over the Hornets. The game was never in doubt -- and Calvin's play was never particularly poor -- but Coach Vande Streek kept the players engaged, imploring them not to give away possessions or relax even a bit on defense after a brief 7-0 Kalamazoo run midway through the second half. The players responded and finished the game with enthusiasm.

Calvin built the lead in the first half with tremendous work by Jordan Daley. He didn't miss a shot in the first half and Kalamazoo couldn't keep the ball out of his hands. At the halftime break I looked up and was shocked to see him already with 20 points.

In the second half it was Jordan Brink who took over. Limited to five points in the first half, he added 11 more in the second half, including a cool 3-3 from long range. Cameron Denney also chipped in late, with 12 second-half points, giving him 14 for the game on 4-7 shooting.

The one negative for Calvin was Brad Visser injuring (or re-injuring) his ankle early in the first half. We'll have to wait for a prognosis (he was on the bench with crutches and his ankle wrapped in the second half), but that's a potential offensive weapon Calvin could miss down the stretch.

The Knights clinched a spot in the four-team MIAA Tournament with their win. The worst they could do now is a 9-5 tie with Alma for third place. It's still possible for Alma to win that tiebreaker, so nothing more than the fourth seed is guaranteed.

Up next is the huge rematch with Trine that will serve as the de facto MIAA regular season championship game. A win would give Calvin a hammerlock lead in the conference, guarantee at least the #2 seed in the MIAA tournament (clinching Calvin above Trine), and put them a game away from clinching the #1 seed (either one more Calvin win or one Hope loss).

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