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Basketball Teams Excited To Finally Call Van Noord Arena “Home”

Thursday, January 08, 2009

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By Bruce Van Baren

For Calvin women’s basketball, the opening of the Van Noord Arena marks a fresh start. The Knights opened the 2008-2009 campaign with five straight wins, but then dropped five of their next six, including a 1-3 start in the MIAA.

The Knights were able to ride the excitement of the historic evening to a 71-65 double overtime win against Trine, advancing to 2-3 in the MIAA. Coach John Ross expressed relief after the thrilling win.

“We’ll take anything we can get right now, we can play a lot better,” Ross said. “A win at home is good, but really any win is good right now.”

Prior to Wednesday’s inaugural game, the Knights had played 11 straight road games and hadn’t played a home game since February 26, 2008, a MIAA first round tournament loss to Adrian.

Coach John Ross admits the transition to the new arena has been strenuous, but isn’t making any excuses for Calvin’s 7-5 record.

“We knew it was going to be tough and unfortunately we didn’t come through it the way we should have,” Ross said. “We’ve got all that stuff in place and we’re going to be better.”

“We need that fresh start. We’re sure hoping that we can turn things around. I think a week of practice is going to be good for us. This is a great place. These locker rooms are unbelievable and this facility is unbelievable.”

The Van Noord Arena is part of the multi-million dollar Spoelhof Athletic Complex which features the Huizenga Tennis and Track Center, the Venema Aquatic Center, the Hoogenboom Health and Recreation Center and the Marian Hoogenboom Health Services.

“We’re going to get into the weight room for the first time tomorrow,” Ross said. “I think that’s huge. That’s what I built this program on when I came here six years ago- practice, conditioning and weightlifting. Those had been very difficult.”

Calvin played its seconds straight game without leading scorer Marcia Harris. Brooke Van Eck, who averages 11.7 points per game to Harris’ 19.3, broke in the Van Noord Arena with a stellar effort. Van Eck scored a game high 18 points, three shy of her career high and grabbed a game high 12 rebounds.

“Lately I haven’t been doing my job,” Van Eck said. “Marcia left some really big shoes to fill.

“It’s really nice to have a place to call home,” she said. “This win is really what we need. I think this is really going to spark us and bring us back to where we were at the beginning of the season.”

Sarah Partridge began her day as a guest on WBBL’s “On the bench” with Bret Bakita. Partridge opened the new arena by scoring the first points on a transition lay-up.

“I didn’t even think about it until someone told me that (just after the game),” Partridge said. “That’s great but mostly I’m just happy we won. We were pretty set on not losing at home for our first game so it was fun to come up with the win.”

Partridge agreed that the opening of the VanNoord Arena marked a fresh start for the Knights.

“To get back in here and to have a home court and to get some consistent practice (times) will be really key for us in the second half of the season,” she said. “This morning was really exciting this being the first game was really exciting. Now we can focus on the (second half of the season).”

Calvin will break for a week to prepare for a road game at Hope on January 14.

John Mantel wasted little time claiming the VanNoord Arena as Calvin’s new home court. The 6-9, 240-pound center opened the Arena’s doors with a career high 27-point effort as Calvin topped Trine 77-69 in front of a sell-out crowd.

Mantel matched his career high, which he set in an overtime win against Cornerstone in the Grand Rapids Hall of Fame Classic at Hope’s DeVos Fieldhouse. Mantel also recorded his third career double-double with a game high 11 rebounds.

“Anytime you can get the ball into the post that is a huge help to your offense because you can do so much with it,” Mantel said. “It often draws the double teams and with so many great shooters on this team it’s a really great way to run our offense.”

Mantel’s inside presence allowed seven of the other nine Knights who saw the floor to score, each with at least four points. Only Caleb Veldhouse joined Mantel in double digits.

Mantel’s stellar effort came on 10 of 19 shooting and two of three from beyond the arc. Mantle was also five of nine from the free throw line, but just three of seven in the first half. Mantel shot five of 12 in the first half, scoring thirteen points.

“(In the first half) John was in foul trouble a little bit, he had a bunch of shots not go in and he missed a bunch of free throws,” Coach Kevin VandeStreek. “I think as a freshman this is a game we probably wouldn’t have got anything out of him because he would have got so frustrated with himself. But he was able to clear his head come back have a great response each time.”

Mantel said he was humbled to be able to be a part of the historic night.

“This Arena is unbelievable,” he said. “I’m just really thankful to the Van Noord family for this. It’s just an honor to come out and be one of the first people to play in this place.”

VandeStreek said he was relieved to end the 10 game road schedule the Knights began the season on, including two “home” games played at Grand Rapids Christian.

“It’s the first time just to put stuff in a locker room and to sit down and have a team chat with everybody in your own place,” VandeStreek said. “(The road) just kind of wore on us a bit and I don’t think we had quality practice time. Even these last few days we’re practicing through fire alarms and then emergency lights only and then court lights only.”

Mantel agreed that the strenuous road schedule stretched the Knights thin.

“It showed a little bit,” Mantel said. “With the Christmas tournament we had a little break and came out a little stronger and now I think we’re ready to come out on fire for the conference season.”

After a 5-5 start to the season, Calvin starts fresh with a 1-0 record in the MIAA after defeating Trine in the MIAA opener.

“Obviously we want to win conference,” VandeStreek said. “That’s the number one goal every year.”

The Knights host Alma on Saturday at 3 p.m. before a two game road stretch at Adrian on January 14 and at Hope on January 17.

“We are on a nice three game roll and we’re feeling pretty good about that,” Mantel said.

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