Men’s Basketball Claims Outright MIAA Title With Win Over Albion
Thursday, February 19, 2009
By Chaz Amidon
GRAND RAPIDS – Coach Kevin Vande Streek now has two milestone wins against Albion this season.
After edging the Britons to become Calvin’s all-time winningest coach back on Jan. 24, Vande Streek notched his sixth MIAA regular season title as the Knights squeezed past Albion 67-62 on Wednesday.
“I really thought, going into year, we had a chance to have a really nice team,” said Vande Streek. “And then we struggled first semester. But you know, I’ll tell you what, I give our guys a lot of credit. They just kind of kept staying after it and came back from Christmas and they were determined.”
The Knights have now won eight straight games – including 14 of their last 15 – and clamped down their first league championship since the 2005-06 season, the year that Calvin’s six current seniors entered the program.
It was fitting, then, that Caleb Veldhouse, Dustin Smith and Tyler Zoerhof, all seniors, combined to score 11 of Calvin’s final 13 points down the stretch, staving off an Albion squad that used a barrage of second-half 3s to stay afloat.
“When this group of seniors were freshmen, we had five of them on the varsity,” said Vande Streek. “I remember joking around saying that I had to bring my diaper bag to practice because we were so young.
“For them to contribute like they did as freshmen and win a conference title, now to see them (as) such great team players, unselfish, working hard, trying to make their teammates better in practice…it’s pretty special.”
But on a night where Calvin’s seniors shot 8-of-27 (29.6 percent) from the field, sophomore Danny Rodts scored a career-high 16 points and junior Matt Veltema added 16 more to bolster a Knights’ offense that shot just 39 percent from the floor throughout.
The two wingmen connected on back-to-back 3s to trim down a seven-point Albion lead shortly before the half, where the Britons had a 30-28 advantage.
A Rodts long ball gave the Knights a 43-41 lead with 12:28 remaining, and Veltema nailed a 3 for Calvin to pull ahead 52-51 with less than 8 minutes left.
“We all contribute to the offense, all in different ways,” said Rodts, who finished 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. “I sort of go out and there and do my part and contribute to the rest of the team. I think every night someone different carries the load, but usually it’s our seniors carrying us through.”
The Knights sunk six straight free throws in the final minute – Veldhouse drilled two shots to make it a two-possession game with 9.3 seconds left – and forced Albion’s Corey Thelen into heaving up a contested 3-pointer as time expired.
“We’ve been working on last-second stuff everyday in practice, so we’re used to it,” said Veltema. “We didn’t want to share the title with anybody.”
Calvin jumped out to an early 18-8 lead after Veltema’s first 3 ignited a 12-0 run, but the Britons responded minutes later by engineering a 19-2 run before the half. The Knights forfeited a double-digit lead by allowing Olivet a 19-2 run in the first half on Saturday.
“We’ve got to be more aggressive getting out there, getting out to those skips,” said Rodts. “We’ve got to be just a little more aggressive on the defensive end.”
Albion shot 10-of-22 (46 percent) from 3-point range, while Calvin finished 8-of-24 (33 percent) from the perimeter. Veldhouse and Smith, two of the Knights premier deep threats, combined to shoot only 2-of-12 from downtown.
Calvin turned in its second straight sub-40 percent performance in Van Noord Arena. The Knights narrowly escaped with a 63-62 win over Hope in its last home game on Feb. 11, a contest where they shot just 33 percent from the field.
The Knights are now in sole possession of first place with a 12-1 record and own a two-game lead on second-place Hope (10-3), a team that lost to Albion earlier this season. The Britons drop down to third place with the loss, but have a chance to shift back into second with a win on Saturday coupled with a Hope loss.
NOTES: Calvin will host an MIAA Tournament game for the first time in the new Van Noord Arena next Wednesday….. Calvin has now won 28 MIAA regular season titles…Calvin is shooting just 38 percent from the floor at home this season…Calvin has now outrebounded the opposition in 14 of its 15 MIAA games this year…Wednesday marked the second straight game Calvin came to win after trailing at halftime…Calvin also trailed at halftime at Olivet on Saturday 36-35.