Men’s Basketball Defeats Olivet in MIAA Trny Semis - To Face Hope in Finals
Saturday, February 28, 2009
By Chaz Amidon
GRAND RAPIDS – It took nearly two months, but the Knights have finally become acclimated to their new home.
Calvin shot a blistering 60 percent from the field en route to a 90-72 win over Olivet in the MIAA semifinals on Friday, advancing to the league title game for seventh straight season.
John Mantel led all scorers with 20 points, Matt Veltema added 19, and the Knights blazed a 21-point halftime lead after shooting 81 percent in the first 20 minutes of play.
“We have a little bit more sense of urgency,” said Caleb Veldhouse. “We haven’t really shot well collectively, in this building especially, all year. At some point it’s got to come to a head.”
The Knights shot a season-best 46 percent from the floor in Wednesday’s first-round win over Trine and connected on 18 of their first 21 attempts against the Comets, who are now 0-9 against Calvin in the MIAA Tournament.
Calvin’s dismal 38 percent average at home during the regular season could have yielded worse results – the Knights were 7-1 at Van Noord Arena – but the MIAA champs held opponents to 37 percent on their court.
“We’ve kind of struggled in the new arena,” said Calvin coach Kevin Vande Streek. “I understand – it’s a little lighting, maybe a little nerves, something like that. But we’re a pretty good shooting team. It’s nice that we didn’t save it for next year to get used to the new arena. We’ve come out the last two games and shot it very well right off the bat.”
Veldhouse and Smith each chipped in 13 points while Danny Rodts and Trent Salo had seven apiece.
Veltema, who had 20 points in the Knights’ 89-54 win over Trine, connected on 5 of his first 6 shots from the field for the second game in a row. He buried a deep 3-pointer to cap a 15-0 Calvin run that gave the Knights a 22-point lead just two minutes before the half.
Over the last three games, Veltema has combined to shoot 15-of-17 (88 percent) in the first half alone, including 10-of-12 (83 percent) from beyond the arc. He has scored 14 first-half points in each of those three games.
“From start to finish, this year he’s been our most consistent player,” said Vande Streek of Veltema. “He’s shot it particularly well lately. In fact, I give him a hard time because it’s reminding me of when he was a Squire at Calvin Christian. He carried them on his back a few times with that kind of shooting.
“When you have other guys that are scoring, you just can’t leave him…he’s been the beneficiary of some good team basketball.”
Veltema, Veldhouse, Rodts and Salo all contributed 3s to the Knights’ 15-0 first-half run, which gave them their largest lead of the game.
Olivet uncorked an 8-0 to begin the second half, but two straight buckets from Rodts pushed Calvin’s lead back up to 18 with 13 minutes remaining.
Smith’s runner brought the lead to 20 moments later, and his fade-away 3 as the shot clock expired stifled another Comet surge with under four minutes to play.
“We have so many guys who can score on this team,” said Veldhouse. “We have five, six guys that can put up 15, 20 points each game. It really helps us out. We’re pretty balanced.”
After outrebounding the Comets 28-21, the Knights have now won the battle of the boards in 14 of their 16 league contests this season. Mantel reeled in a game-high seven boards while four other Knights each had three.
“As a team, we want to manage the paint,” said Veldhouse. “We want to manage the rebounding battle and we want to win points in the paint and we want to shoot more free throws.”
Olivet handed Calvin its only home loss of the season on Jan. 21, a 60-57 decision where the Knights shot 34 percent from the floor. Andre Evans scored 19 points to lead the Comets while Michael McClary added 16.
This time, the Knights held Evans to 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Michael McClary had 12, and his older brother, Brandon, finished with a team-high 14.
Calvin will now host Hope for the MIAA championship game on Saturday. The Dutch picked up a landslide win in the other semifinal on Friday, routing Albion 75-48.
The Knights currently own eight conference tournament titles – the most of any MIAA program – though Hope trails with seven. Calvin is 8-5 in league championships games.
Calvin will have a chance to even up the all-time series with Hope, as the Dutch own an 86-85 lead. The Knights swept the season series from Hope in a pair of one-point victories.
“We’re prepared for it…and Hope’s prepared for it as well,” said Veldhouse. “We’ll be ready and I know they will be too.
“Both teams will be a little fatigued, so that’s a level playing field in that area. But once the adrenaline gets kicking and you’re playing for a conference title – and you’re playing Hope – then you can be sure both teams will be ready to go.”
NOTES: Veldhouse needs nine 3s to tie Andy Draayer as Calvin’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made…Rodts is 10-of-14 from downtown in his last four games…Hope currently leads the decade of the 2000’s against Calvin 15-14 …The Knights scored 50 or more points in the first half for the third time this season, including the second game in a row.