1993 NCAA Div. III champions
GRINNELL — Making a 13-point comeback in the second half to push the game into overtime, the Central College women’s basketball team closed out an 80-71 win in its opener at Grinnell College Friday night.
The Dutch fell behind by 13 points with just 5:44 remaining in the first half, but two free throws, three field goals and an assist by guard Kenzie Vander Molen (junior, Pella) put the Dutch within five points. The Dutch left the half down by just 31-30.
“We started the game with defensive intensity,” said interim head coach Chelsea Petersen. “The team ran down the shot clock and stayed poised through a lot of the first half. Our offense executed well, but once the game started to speed up, we struggled to slow it back down.
“We started taking early shots and not running down the clock. We didn’t have enough patience to develop an offensive shot.”
The Pioneers built their lead back to 51-40 with 11:58 left in regulation. Central whittled the gap with four free throw shots and two layups by forward Jessy Stika (senior, Cresco, Crestwood HS), fueling a 13-0 scoring run to lead 53-51 with 5:57 remaining.
“We made some defensive adjustments at halftime,” Petersen said. “We really wanted to focus on staying poised and boxing out.”
Up four with just over a minute remaining, Central gave up buckets on two Grinnell offensive rebounds off free throws. A pair of Stika free throws with five seconds left gave Central a 66-65 edge, but Grinnell's Anne Boldt was fouled on a 3-point try at the buzzer. But Boldt missed two of the three charity tosses to send the game into overtime when the Dutch sprinted to a 70-66 lead and never lost control of the game.
“Both teams kept fighting the second half,” said Petersen. “After we gained the lead, Grinnell stayed with us. I really commend Grinnell’s head coach, Dana Harrold. She did a great job of coaching the team.
“Fortunately, all the things we had been talking about came together in overtime. It was a total team effort in the final minutes.”
The Dutch narrowly lost the rebound battle 45-43, but Central’s field goal percentage was 48.1 percent for the game compared to Grinnell’s 31.4 percent.
Guard Rachel Evans (junior, Fort Dodge) fueled the Dutch offense with a team-high 18 points. Evans fired off 10 of 14 free throws and made 67 percent of her field goals while Vander Molen added 15 points.
“Kenzie did a tremendous job of leading the floor,” Petersen said. “I have to give her a lot of credit from remaining poised and slowing down our offense.
Freshman guard Emily Neff (Cedar Falls) notched a double-double in her collegiate debut with 15 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.
"Emily came out in the first game of her career and hit some big shots, and Rachel (Evans) also did really well offensively for us tonight," Petersen said.
Stika had 11 points and seven rebounds while transfer guard Kaitlin Stump (sophomore, Lancaster, Mo., Schuyler R-1 HS) had six points in her first Central game.
“Jessy was great at post and was really aggressive,” said Petersen. “And Kaitlin did well cutting hard and making some big defensive stops.
“It’s really difficult to pinpoint just a few players because everyone stepped up,” she said. “All the players on the floor, the coaches and the ladies on the bench contributed to the win. I am so proud of all of them for staying together as a team. They played a phenomenal season opener.”
The Dutch make their home season debut Tuesday night against Blackburn College (Ill.). Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m. at P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium.