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Men’s Basketball Opens Tip-Off Tourney With Win Over Grace Bible

Saturday, November 22, 2008

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Box Score

By Chaz Amidon

GRAND RAPIDS – Calvin hasn’t called Grand Rapids Christian High School its home since the 1964-65 season, just one year before the Knights migrated to the Calvin Fieldhouse. 

Forty-four years later, they returned back to Grand Rapids Christian – their first time at the Plymouth campus – and routed Grace Bible College 82-49 in their season opener at the Quest Center, Calvin’s interim court until the unveiling of the newly constructed Van Noord Arena on Jan. 7.

Junior center John Mantel led the way with a game-high 20 points, while Caleb Veldhouse and Matt Veltema each poured in 14 as the Knights improved to 9-0 all-time against the Tigers, dating back to the 1995-96 season.

“It was what we needed,” said Veltema, who shot 3 of 7 from downtown. “It’s all about starting off good, and it’s what we did.”

With the win, Calvin advanced to 14-1 in Tip-Off Tournament play, where the Knights have claimed six of the last seven titles – including a 2007 victory over then-No. 1 Washington University, the 2007-08 NCAA-III champions.

“It’s just as big as last year, because last year we had a big problem with consistency,” said Veldhouse.

After the Tigers jumped out to a quick 2-0 start, Calvin countered with a deflating 14-0 run that was ignited by a pair of 3s from Trent Salo and Veldhouse, who notched all 14 of his points before halftime.

Grace Bible’s Paul Nelson would help his team inch back by garnering a 7-0 run himself to trim Calvin’s lead to 18-11, but the Knights ended the first half on a 7-1 stretch – which included a thundering Mantel dunk – to cinch a 37-21 lead at the break.

“It’s very reassuring to jump out to an early lead,” said Veldhouse. “(The offense) feels really good. We’ve got a lot of guys that can score.”

The Knights engineered a 7-0 run to begin the second half, and a Veltema 3-pointer with exactly 15 minutes left brought the score to 53-28 – a point where Calvin subs began to trickle in for the remainder of the game.

Danny Rodts scored all of his eight points in the second half, and Nate Sytsma chipped in six in the final six minutes.

“We’re really deep,” said Veldhouse. “We’ve got some new guys starting, so the chemistry won’t be as good as it will be by the end of the year.”

Veltema, who came off the bench to average 6.0 points-per-game in 2007-08, shot 5 of 10 from the field and was three points shy of tying a career-high 17 points. He played only 15 minutes in reprising his role as a reserve player.

“I like coming off the bench – I like coming in and bringing a little extra energy,” said Veltema. “Me and Tyler (Zoerhof) and Dustin (Smith) like to come in and do that.”

Mantel turned in a near-perfect night from the floor, finishing 9 of 10 and connecting on both of his free throw attempts to overshadow the Tigers’ frontcourt phenom Allen Durham, who brought averages of 20.8 points-per-game and 13.0 rebounds-per-game into Friday’s match-up.

Durham was limited to 12 points – 10 of which came in the second half – as the Tigers were bolstered by a 18-point outing from point guard Paul Nelson.

Grace Bible (3-3) headed into the Tip-Off Tournament on the heels of a narrow 81-72 loss to The Citadel, a Division I program in the Southern Conference.

“We have a lot of respect for Grace,” said Veldhouse. “They play really hard and they play really tough, so we respect them and we wanted to take it at them as much as they wanted to take it at us.”

Calvin will now host Spring Arbor in the championship game tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. The Cougars squeezed out a 66-61 win over Baldwin-Wallace in Friday’s 5:00 semifinal, where Spring Arbor used a balance scoring attack from Kevin Ludwig (16 points), Rob Boss (14 points) and Willie Pickvet (11 points) to outlast the Yellow Jackets in their season opener.

“Today we worry about today, tomorrow we worry about tomorrow,” said Veltema. “We’re going to come out tomorrow and focus on getting better.”

NOTES: Calvin coach Kevin Vande Streek recorded win No. 246 on Friday and now needs only nine victories to dethrone Ed Douma (1984-1996) as the Knights’ all-time winningest coach…Mantel scored 17 points in Calvin’s season opener against Grace Bible in 2007 and was eventually elected to the All-Tournament team…Veldhouse now has 1,319 career points, trailing Duane Rosendahl (1952) as Calvin’s 10th all-time leading scorer.

Posted in: Men's Basketball
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