By Gina de Haan
HOLLAND, Mich. - On Friday evening, the Calvin men's basketball team defeated the Trine University Thunder 75-64 in the semifinals of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament.
"It was a really hard-fought game against a team that we are incredibly evenly matched with," said Calvin men's head basketball coach Kevin Vande Streek. "I thought we played pretty well in the first half, except we had nine turnovers. In the second half, we narrowed it down to three, and, offensively, we shared the ball and cut hard, which created some open looks."
Off the bench, Nick Kronemeyer (Hamilton, MI/Hamilton HS) was one of two players who led the Knights with a career-high 20 points (9-13 FG, 2-3 FT).
"I think we played really well as a team tonight," said Kronemeyer, "I don't think one guy stood out, but it was a team win."
Michael Wilks (Hudsonville, MI/Unity Christian HS) got the Knights on the board first, knocking down an early triple. Trine's Kyle Dodson responded for the Thunder, scoring the next seven points of the contest. First team All-MIAA selection Will Dixon capped off the Thunder's 10-0 run, draining a three-pointer on the fast break to force a Calvin timeout.
Kronemeyer broke the four-minute scoreless period, scoring four points in the paint out of the break. The Knights' offense started to heat up as Wilks and freshman Derrick Devries (Grand Rapids, MI/Covenant Christian HS) both scored to give Calvin a 12-10 advantage.
Trine would take back the lead by way of free throws, but Mike Siegel (Fremont, MI/Fremont HS) answered with five straight points for the Knights. Kronemeyer and Michael Welch (Stevensville, MI/Lakeshore HS) would both score down low to add to the run before Trine called timeout.
Late in the first half, the teams exchanged points, with Trine chipping away at the Knights' lead. After back-to-back triples by Adam Ciszewski, the Thunder took a 26-25 lead.
Welch put the Knights back on top, scoring the next five points, including a three-point play. The Thunder scored four points before the halftime break, while Kronemeyer added another bucket for the Knights. Calvin headed into the locker room with a narrow 32-30 lead.
The Knights went 0-4 from the floor in their first possession of the second half. Trine would go ahead after a quick three by Ciszewski. Once again, the Knights immediately took back the lead, as Cam Denney (Bluffton, IN/Norwell HS) put in a layup and then fed Wilks for another Knights' bucket.
With 15:51 left to play, Trine would tie the score at 39. A pair of free throws by Welch and two more buckets by Kronemeyer would give the Knights a six-point advantage, forcing a Trine timeout.
Back-to-back threes by the Thunder tied the game, but Calvin would pull away once again as Welch, Siegel and Kronemeyer scored, the scoreboard now reading 51-45.
The two teams exchanged points, but with 7:21 remaining, Wilks knocked down a three to give the Knights a nine-point lead, their largest of the evening. Denney widened the gap to 12 points, knocking down a triple of his own.
Trine's Langston Johnson responded with a three-pointer for the Thunder, but Wilks answered, knocking down his fourth three of the night.
With 2:32 remaining, Will Dixon led one last offensive push for the Thunder, hitting a three and then feeding Langston Johnson on the fast break to make the score 68-60, still in favor of the Knights.
After a Calvin timeout, the Knights would go 5-7 from the line to roll to a 74-65 win.
Kronemeyer and Wilks led the Knights with 20 points apiece. Welch posted a double-double, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Denney recorded 11 points, all coming in the second half, seven boards and four assists.
The Knights doubled Trine's scoring down low, scoring 48 points in the paint.
"It started in the first half, when we would get it down low and they would send the double team, so I found Nick a lot and other teammates," said Welch. "In the second half, when they started just isolating in the post, it opened up things for me and the other post players."
Canonie didn't score for the Knights, but finished with three assists, two blocks and two steals. Canonie also held Dixon to five first-half points. Dixon would finish with 15 points on 25 shots.
"Defensively, I think we start with Tony Canonie," said Vande Streek. "He's an outstanding perimeter defender. He can guard their best player and neutralize him, which allows everyone else to stay out on their guy."
"I want to highlight how important Tony is to our team," said Kronemeyer. "Watching him on D, he just takes one guy and takes him out of the game."
Calvin outrebounded the Thunder 47-29.
"I think we're playing our best basketball, which is really what you want to have heading down the stretch," said Vande Streek. "We've gotten into a rhythm offensively and figured out our roles defensively."
Tomorrow night, the Knights will play Hope in the MIAA Tournament Championships at Hope's DeVos Fieldhouse in Holland. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Calvin Post-Game Press Conference