On the winning track
Two in a row.
That’s routine to some teams, but for Trinity Christian College’s men’s basketball squad, it represented a breakthrough. The Trolls picked up their second straight victory in an 84-70 trouncing of Purdue University Calumet last Wednesday, the first time this season they’ve scored back-to-back wins.
A 50-33 margin in the second half made the difference. Trinity ignored the Peregrines’ 15-4 ledger, and senior Jake Van Den Berg’s 27-point half — he totaled 31 points for the game on 9-of-12 shooting, which included a 5-of-6 performance from 3-point range — carried the Trolls to their biggest triumph of the year.
“I just wanted to win,” Van Den Berg said. “This is definitely a bonus. We’ve got a lot of freshmen, but this gives us confidence.”
It was a night when Trinity, starting four freshmen along with Van Den Berg, did everything right. The Trolls hung with PUC during the first half, trailing only 37-34 at the break, and then shot 59 percent in the second half.
Trinity out-rebounded the Peregrines 36-34 and recorded assists on 16 of its 26 field goals. The Trolls were also a blistering 22-of-23 at the free-throw line.
And they defended. Even saddled with four fouls apiece down the stretch, Trinity big men Trey Johnson and Ezekiel Odonkor refused to let the Peregrines ever get consistent production down low.
“They started breaking down [and] started yelling at each other,” Van Den Berg said of PUC players. “Then it’s done.”
Van Den Berg’s 3-pointer 38 seconds into the second half tied the score, and while Noah Allen (20 points) matched it for the Peregrines before the first minute had elapsed, Van Den Berg then scored 15 points for Trinity in less than four minutes. The Troll hit from beyond the arc and inside it, and from both the left and right sides.
Trinity had beaten the University of St. Francis in overtime following a 17-point comeback the weekend before. Knocking off PUC seemed to be a continuation of that finish, but Trolls coach Brandon Nicol — in starting freshmen Johnson, Ryan Tubbs, Joe Hehir (17 points) and Jared Jones (21 points, six rebounds) along with Van Den Berg — sees a longer arc to the rise in fortune.
“Our young guys have been through a lot of tough losses,” Nicol said. “Whether we start them or not, we’re playing five freshmen 20-plus minutes a game. It’s a young team, but it’s a really, really bright team.”
The winter’s weekend blow prevented Indiana University-South Bend from traveling to Palos Heights for last Saturday’s game. The makeup date hasn’t yet been announced.
The postponement meant a week passed before the Trolls were scheduled to travel to Olivet Nazarene for a Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference matchup this past Wednesday.
• Statistics: 6-15 overall, 2-8 CCAC, 3-4 home, 3-8 away, 0-3 neutral. Leaders: Jared Jones 17.0 ppg., 49 assists, 21 steals; Joe Hehir 49 steals; Jake Van Den Berg 7.9 rpg., 17 blocks.
• Schedule: Saturday, vs. Robert Morris University, 3 p.m.; Wednesday, at Roosevelt University, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 8, vs. Trinity International University, 3 p.m.; Feb. 12, vs. Purdue-North Central, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 15, vs. Cardinal Stritch, 3 p.m.
There are still missing pieces for the Trolls, but the situation isn’t as dire as a 6-15 record and four losses in five games entering this past Wednesday’s contest with run-and-gun Olivet Nazarene University would indicate.
This is a better Trinity team than last year’s squad, and ridiculously young. In last Wednesday’s 71-47 loss to Purdue University Calumet, Trolls coach Reggie Chapple started two juniors and three sophomores, with junior Erynn Schuh coming off the bench.
Schuh tallied 10 points and fellow junior Caitlin Cody led the way with 13, but their firepower wasn’t enough against a Peregrines squad that had three players score in double figures. PUC shot 41 percent from the floor, compared to the Trolls’ 28 percent.
Cody also had a team-high nine rebounds for Trinity, but the Trolls miss the presence of a tall player inside to post up, especially on defense. And good teams, of which there are plenty within the CCAC, will exploit that.
It shows how far Trinity still has to go to become competitive on an every-night basis, and Chapple knows it.
“We made a lot of progress between last year’s team and this year’s team,” he said. “That’s the main thing I’m looking for — [for us to] continue to progress, because as we do that, we’ll build confidence. Then we’ll be highly competitive.
“[Wednesday], we saw those glimpses. We put it together for three or four minutes at a time.”
The Trolls whittled a 20-point gap down to nine points on two occasions in the second half versus PUC.
“Bringing it within single digits in the second half, that’s a sign of the fight our team has,” Chapple said. “And we have to bring that every single game. We’re still young, [but] things are really looking up.”
Because of the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled game with Indiana-South Bend game, the Trolls went seven days between contests before meeting up with Olivet.
• Statistics: 6-15 overall, 2-8 CCAC, 2-5 home, 3-8 away, 1-2 neutral. Leaders: Caitlin Cody 13.4 ppg., 8.0 rpg, 15 blocks; Allie Paluchniak 42 assists, 29 steals.
• Schedule: Saturday, vs. Robert Morris University, 1 p.m.; Wednesday, at Roosevelt University, 5:30 p.m.; Feb. 8, vs. Trinity International University, 1 p.m.; Feb. 15, vs. Cardinal Stritch, 1 p.m.
TRACK & FIELD
Anna Bos won the women’s 5,000-meter run and Andy Reidsma took second in the men’s 5,000 at Indiana Wesleyan University’s Wildcat Invitational on Saturday in Marion, Ind.
Bos registered a school-record time for women of 18 minutes, 2.59 seconds in the distance run, while teammate Jessica Disselkoen was third in 19:10.95. Bos qualified for the NAIA and National Christian College Athletic Association indoor finals with her time, while Disselkoen reached the NCCAA standard.
Reidsma’s runner-up clocking of 15:17.09, meanwhile, hit the NAIA’s “B” standard for men at 5,000 meters.
Other advancers for the female Trolls included the 3,200-relay team, which hit the NAIA mark with a school-record time of 9:48.61 while placing third at Indiana Wesleyan. Meeting NCCAA national standards in their respective individual events were Tyrell Natewa (5,000), Chris Morse (long jump), Emily Dykstra (60- high hurdles) and Courtney Samudio (long jump).
The Trolls are at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Saturday, weather permitting.