Clarissa Kraayenbrink – Sports Editor
Both the Defenders men’s and women’s basketball teams had a berth to the postseason this year. After the men went 12-19 (6-12 in the GPAC), they secured their spot in the GPAC tournament by beating Briar Cliff on Saturday, Feb. 17, with a score of 81-75. The women got their berth earlier in the season and played Northwestern in the first round of the tournament after going 14-17 (8-12) in the regular season.
Men vs. Morningside
The men faced the Morningside Mustangs in the first round of the GPAC tournament in Sioux City on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Morningside beat the Defender men 83-63 after leading most of the game.
“Coming off a win Saturday against Briar Cliff, we felt we had momentum,” said men’s assistant coach Derek Keizer. “We knew [Morningside] was a very tough opponent, but we knew if we did the things we focused on, we’d be in good shape.”
Morningside took the lead early on until Dordt rallied back to lead 31-30 with a three-pointer from freshman Kyle Lang with just over seven minutes left in the first half. Dordt’s lead did not last long and the Mustangs led the Defenders 50-40 at halftime.
“We came out [for] the second half feeling pretty good,” Keizer said. “We played great defense the second half, but we just couldn’t score.”
Dordt closed the 10-point gap, starting with three baskets made by junior Alec Henrickson right out of the gate. Dordt eventually went up by one point via a Chad Barkema three-pointer. Morningside took the lead back after a tie at 57-57 and never looked back. Morningside scored 26 more points in the game thanks in part to a 13-2 run late in the second half. Dordt scored only six more points and the Mustangs came away with the win in the first round of the postseason.
“I don’t think our guys got frustrated with one another; I think they were frustrated they just couldn’t find a way to score,” Keizer said.
The team will lose two seniors in Andrew O’Donnell and Taylor Feenstra, but their core group of players will remain the same, which bodes well for them. Keizer had positive feelings about the season overall, despite the men’s win-loss record. He looks forward to the offseason and the players growing and preparing for next fall.
“The [team] chemistry never faltered,” Keizer said. “We got along, we fought hard, we fought for one another all the time, but we couldn’t get over the hump in a lot of close games.”
Women vs. Northwestern
The women’s team traveled across the county to take on the Northwestern women on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Northwestern won by 11 with a final score of 75-64, the score remained
much more even throughout the game.
“Playing them a third time was kind of saying, ‘What kind of game plan can we put in place that we’re going to feel confident about?’” head coach Kyle Lindbergh said.
Dordt only scored six points in the first quarter, but they only gave up 12. Four of those points came from sophomore Rachel Evavold, who was one of the lead scorers for the Defenders with 16 points on the night. The other two points were from freshman Erika Feenstra, who led the team with 17 points.
In the second quarter, sophomore Payton Harmsen tied the game up at 14-14 with a three-pointer. The teams tied scores again at 17-17 and 19-19, entering halftime with Northwestern leading 27-24. Dordt caught up again in the third quarter with a pair of free throws from Feenstra to bring the score to 33-33. Sophomore Ebby Prewitt had nine of her 12 points in the third quarter to tie Northwestern two times, at 38-38 and 47-47, respectively. Northwestern was up just three points, 52-49, going into the fourth and final quarter of the game.
“When they kind of blew it open there, that gave them the confidence,” Lindbergh said. “For us, with about five to six minutes left in the game, that was a big margin to chip back at. We just weren’t able to get back over the hump of that deficit of 10 points.”
Northwestern took a lead too far for Dordt to close in on in the fourth quarter. Dordt was down by 16 with just over one minute left in the game, and with the help of Evavold and freshman Siennah Stamness, Dordt ended the game down by 11, 75-64.
“We had a few mismatches that we weren’t thrilled about,” Lindbergh said. “As a coaching staff, that’s a regret that’s going to eat at me all offseason.”
Like Keizer, Lindbergh looks forward to the offseason and seeing his players grow.
“I definitely have a lot of fond memories from this season,” Lindbergh said of his first season coaching the Defender women. “But overall, just to see the growth from our very first practice, our very first game, to our very last game, both as a team and as individual players.”
The women’s team is graduating only Steffi Cunard, who is graduating a year early to attend graduate school. Kenzie Bousema will be the team’s lone senior next season and Lindbergh looks forward to keeping this team together and adding the new freshman class next fall.