Trolls on the verge of qualification
It comes down to this for Trinity Christian College’s men’s basketball team: Win the last two games and then hope to qualify for the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.
The Trolls came into this past Wednesday’s game against Judson University with a 9-19 overall record and 5-12 league mark. The top 10 teams in the 14-school circuit earn entry into the postseason event. Heading into the current week, 10 programs had a better record than Trinity, including St. Xavier University, Saturday’s foe in the regular-season finale.
Judson entered Wednesday’s contest at 6-22 overall, 3-14 within the CCAC. Nevertheless, this must-win game wasn’t a lock for the Trolls.
The present situation materialized after Trinity went 1-2 last week. The Trolls opened with a 94-68 loss at Indiana University-South Bend, rebounded with an 86-79 victory over Purdue-North Central and then concluded the busy week with a dramatic 75-74 overtime loss to NAIA Division II top-ranked Cardinal Stritch University.
Had Trinity upset the Wolves, it would have collected its first-ever first win over a No. 1 team. Instead, the Trolls were left to lick their emotional wounds after pushing Stritch to the brink.
The Wolves led by 11 points in the first half before Trinity began chipping away. A six-minute surge midway though the second half erased a nine-point deficit, Joe Hehir’s 3-pointer tying the contest at 57 with five minutes to go. Only once in regulation, on a layup by Jake Van Den Berg (16 points, eight rebounds) soon after, did the Trolls enjoy a lead.
Stritch regained the edge and expanded it to four points, only to see Hehir shave Trinity’s deficit in half at the free-throw line. Then in the final seconds, Ezekiel Odonkor rebounded Jared Jones’ 3-point miss and sank a buzzer-beating putback that created the need for an extra session.
Four more ties followed in overtime, but the Trolls couldn’t get past the Wolves.
Jones’ 22 points paced the locals on a night when they outshot Stritch (47-to-32 percent), out-rebounded it (40-37), and generally outplayed the nation’s top team. Only the victory was missing.
The Trolls had opened the week by earning a split against CCAC foes Purdue-North Central and Indiana-South Bend.
The win over the Panthers included a 20-point showing from Hehir, 16 points from Jones — whose early 3-pointer put Trinity in command — and 13 each from Van Den Berg and Cody Rhorer. Rhorer also grabbed eight rebounds.
The blowout loss to IUSB ended the Trolls’ winning streak at two games largely because the Titans ran wild offensively, shooting 63 percent. They also pulled down 44 rebounds to Trinity’s 28, thereby rendering Jones’ 20-point effort relatively meaningless.
• Statistics: 9-19 overall, 5-12 CCAC, 5-6 home, 4-10 away, 0-3 neutral. Leaders: Jared Jones 17.6 ppg., 24 steals; Jake Van Den Berg, 7.5 rpg.; Evan Pratt 68 assists; Trey Johnson 22 blocks.
• Schedule: Saturday, vs. St. Xavier University, 3 p.m.
The Trolls’ long-sputtering offense contributed to both of their losses last week. Trinity (7-20, 3-13) was outplayed by Cardinal Stritch in an 84-62 setback, but stayed in contention most of the way against Indiana-South Bend before falling to a 59-44 defeat.
What killed the Trolls’ chances against the Titans was second-half shooting. One basket in a 14-minute span caused a six-point lead to become a 12-point deficit. Trinity shot only 27 percent overall versus IUSB and just 24 percent (7-of-29) over the final 20 minutes.
Aside from Caitlin Cody’s 23-point, 10-rebound night, the Trolls managed only 21 points and 10 field goals on 45 shots. The Titans had a standout offensive performer in Maegan Callaway (22 points on 10-of-26 shooting), but also cranked up the defense.
The loss to 11th-ranked Stritch resulted from the Wolves gradually pulling away. They led by 13 at intermission and 24 after a second-half surge, then coasted in 22 points ahead of Trinity, which absorbed its 20th loss of the season. Holly Boetsma and Brooke Bambrick each scored 17 points for the Trolls.
With a playoff berth now out of reach and matchups against Judson and St. Xavier universities the only ones remaining, Trinity can’t reach the 10-victory plateau, which would have been a real accomplishment. Still, after last season’s 3-28 record, there’s still been measurable improvement in coach Reggie Chappel’s second campaign.
• Statistics: 7-20 overall, 3-13 CCAC, 3-7 home, 3-11 away, 1-2 neutral. Leaders: Caitlin Cody 13.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg., 18 blocks; Allie Paluchniak 57 assists, 35 steals.
• Schedule: Saturday, vs. St. Xavier University, 1 p.m.
TRACK & FIELD
The Trolls keep picking off targets and gaining berths in postseason meets.
Last weekend’s jaunt to the Chicagoland meet at North Central College featured Trinity’s women’s distance-medley relay quartet of Ashley Jourdan, Justine VanDyk, Courtney Kalous and Anna Bos producing a school-record run of 12 minutes, 33.16 seconds to earn a spot in the NAIA meet. Bos also excelled as an individual, as she qualified for the National Christian College Athletic Association meet with her 5:18.17 clocking in the mile run.
On the men’s side, Alex Clark’s 4:30.46 mile time also advanced him to the NCCAA meet, which takes place this weekend at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. Meanwhile, Andy Reisdma’s victory in the 5,000-meter run came in a school-record time of 15:07.81, which advanced his seed time for the NAIA indoor meet.
Chris Morse’s 7.29 effort in the 60-dash, an event where the Trolls haven’t possessed much speed over the years, represented another school standard.
The Trolls seek a second straight postseason berth as they look to build on last season’s 18-12 record in CCAC play, the centerpiece of a 25-24 overall record.
Two words may slow that quest, at least at the start: weather permitting. Trinity opens this weekend with four games against Brescia in Owensboro, Ky., followed by contests in central Indiana and St. Louis as February morphs into March.
The questions are how many of those 10 games will be played and how much work can coach Justin Huisman get his pitching staff before the spring-break week in Florida in mid-March? Last year, six of the first 10 games were wiped out by snow or rain.