By Brendan Ramirez
This has been an exceptional year for the Grinnell men’s basketball team. They are currently in second place in the Midwest Conference and have a great shot at hosting the Midwest Conference Tournament. With their last two big wins over Lake Forest and Knox, they are looking strong going into the final stretch.
The Pioneers’ previous two wins have been by double digits, beating the Lake Forest Foresters by 38 and the Knox Prairie Fire by 71, with a final score of 136-65.
“The staple of this team has been our defense. Despite our up and down pace of play, we’ve only given up about 65 points per game over the last few contests,” said Associate Coach David Arseneault Jr. ’09. “It doesn’t hurt that we’ve shot over 40% from the 3-point line in each of our last two games either.”
“Our defensive intensity was great, forcing around 40 turnovers,” said guard Dominique Bellamy ’13 about the Knox win. “And our offensive execution was great as well, shooting about 43% from the three point line.”
The Lake Forest game saw similar intensity.
“We shot well from the three, our effort and defensive intensity was high as well,” Bellamy said. “Knowing that if we want any chance of hosting conference, we can’t let any game slip away is really driving everyone to play well and execute.”
Coaches and players have attributed their success to not just their exceptional offensive and defensive play but also to their great teamwork.
“I think the greatest thing about our team is how unselfish we are,” Bellamy said. “There were so many extra passes to shots and not forcing up bad shots to get a better shot; it was great how much we all trusted each other.”
Arseneault agreed. “The best thing about this team is that they are a team. They don’t care who scores or who gets the headlines.”
Forward Brent LeMoine ’16 stressed the morale boost the past few wins have given the team going into the final four games of the season.
“We came out on top in each game by a large margin and raised our spirits, especially on the defensive side,” LeMoine said.
The Pioneers are currently only behind St. Norbert College in the Midwest Conference. The top four teams make it to the tournament and the conference champion hosts the tournament, which will be held Friday, February 22 and Saturday, February 23.
“We are still in a position to host the tournament and we control our own destiny,” Arseneault said.
LeMoine laid out the requirements.
“Should we win the remaining four games; at Beloit, against St. Norbert, against Cornell, and at Lawrence, the championship will be ours,” LeMoine said.
According to Bellamy the number of possible tournament teams has been narrowed down the past few weeks to just a few. “No one has clinched a spot yet, but if everything continues as it has been, the top four teams should include us, St. Norbert, Carroll, and either Beloit or Ripon.”
Whether Grinnell hosts the tournament or not, expectations are high.
“The team and coaching staff are looking forward to something special and hope to place another banner in the rafters for conference champions,” LeMoine said.
“I’ve never seen our team so confident since I’ve been at Grinnell. We all believe that we are the best team in conference,” Bellamy said. “This is our year to go further than any Grinnell team has.”