Pete Barrows

Sports Journalist — Pete.Barrows12@gmail.com

Archive for February 2014

GVSU flips script in upset win at Wayne State

leave a comment »

Crandall’s late free throw avenges Feb. 1 heartbreaker


Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor

GVL / Robert Mathews  Daina Grazulis
INT. Matthaei Center, Detroit, Mich. – Saturday Feb. 22, approximately 3 p.m.

FADE IN/FADE LIGHTS

Senior guard Dani Crandall receives an inbound pass from the sideline off a timeout with 14.7 seconds left in the game, works a clear out off a high-ball screen, crosses over her defender from right to left, careens in toward the rim from the left through contact and finishes her first layup of the game off the glass with 6.8 seconds remaining on the clock, despite being fouled. 

Crandall sets up on the free-throw line with the game tied, dribbles out any anxiety she might be feeling into the court, takes a deep, settling breath and sinks the back half of an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team a 65-64 edge over No. 21 Wayne State University for its first lead of the game.

“I was thinking at worst, draw contact and get a foul so we’d have a chance even if I didn’t make the layup, but I don’t know. My mind was kind of blanking,” Crandall said. “I just had a ‘get it done’ mentality, told myself to do something and then drove it.”

CUT TO: Feb. 1 – Fieldhouse Arena, Allendale, Mich. :: FLASHBACK

Crandall drives the lane, is fouled at the rim and knocks down a pair of free throws to tie the game with 15 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.

The GVSU bench erupts as a final team timeout is called.

MATCH CUT BACK TO: Feb. 22

CLOSE UP: Crandall – as she makes her way into the GVSU huddle, the camera pans in pursuit and poetically frames the grease-board discussion. Head coach Janel Burgess enters frame stage left and, with Crandall, provides inspiration against a ticking clock.

“Heading into the game, we knew Wayne State was rated first in the conference, a good team – not a great team – and that they stole one from us on our home floor,” Crandall said. “We came out hoping to have a better start than what we did – it’s the same story we’ve had all season of having to dig our way out of holes – but we put our heads down, started to chip away and we didn’t give up.

“That’s a reflection of our team and a season as a whole. We’re not giving up. Period. Not in a game, not on this season, not on making the playoff cut when we’re on the cusp.”

WSU takes possession with 6.7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s rematch. The stage is set for the Warriors to once again steal a victory on a last-second shot.

RETURN TO FLASHBACK – fade from the Feb. 22 huddle back to the sideline on Feb. 1. Both teams retake the court.

WSU inbounds, dramatically rotates the ball to junior center Shareta Brown — a likely All-American and the GLIAC’s leading scorer at a clip of 21 points per game — who lets it fly, igniting a slow-motion sequence, and sinks the shot with eight seconds left in the game.

Silence permeates the arena, and one last glancing shot of the scoreboard reveals a 78-76 final score, in favor of the Warriors.

SMASH CUT BACK to Feb. 22

The Lakers implement a full-court-pressure look and junior point guard Meryl Cripe applies her savvy by committing a foul. Two seconds run off the clock, and Burgess calls one final timeout, 4.7 seconds away from a win needed to keep GVSU’s playoff aspirations afloat.

Brown is double-teamed in the front court, GVSU takes a delay of game penalty to further assess the Warriors’ strategy, and WSUtakes its final timeout with three seconds to go as the chess game mounts and the tension builds.

“Those are fun games to coach, especially when your players are so engaged,” Burgess said. “Those last 6.7 seconds, our kids remembered that Wayne State had scored on us at home with eight seconds to go and knew that the game wasn’t over.”

On the final inbound of the game, Brown is again denied the ball. It’s Crandall once again who thrusts into center stage to save the day. She steals the cross-court pass, falls on the ball, and Jerry Goldsmith’s ‘Best Shot’ echoes through the arena.

The Lakers trailed 12 points at half and led for only 6.7 seconds Saturday, but it was the right 6.7 seconds to secure the 65-64 upset victory.

“It was the best 6.7 seconds of the weekend, that’s for sure,” Burgess said. “It was a rewarding win for these young kids and the way we won says something about our resiliency and ability to sustain and fight through everything. We never gave up, never panicked, we worried about ourselves and what we do, got some huge stops, and we showed what kind of team we can be.”

SCENE

De’ja’ Vu is a French term for ‘already seen,’ usually reserved for shrink offices and tainted ever so slightly by Denzel Washington’s 2006 fall release, but it might also have been an apt screenplay title for Saturday’s dramatic matchup that, if produced, would look more than a little like “Hoosiers” in its climatic conclusion.

Crandall, who scored a then-career-high 25 points to go with 10 rebounds back in the GVSU loss on Feb.1, led the Lakers with 16 points — 12 in the second half — on 5-of-11 shooting from the field, 1-of-1 from three-point and 5-of-7 from the free-throw line Saturday. She would have, of course, played a Jimmy Chitwood role, and her game-winning three-point play would have been no less essential to the plot than Chitwood’s jumper from the elbow off the picket-fence screen. 12390_wbball_rgb03p

Crandall’s performance was amplified even further by the fact that she was withheld with injury for the first time this season on her senior day Thursday, but she returned to the court to realize what her team can do at it’s highest potential.

“There are a lot of good teams in this conference and we’re a good team ourselves, but nobody’s great and everybody’s beatable,” she said. “After this game, with our attitude to put our heads down and go to work, we realized we can do anything we put our minds to. We beat the No. 1 team on their home court, and when we have our minds all on the same page, we can beat anybody on any given night.”

After falling to Saginaw Valley State University 65-47 on Thursday, the team entered the game tied with Northwood University (11-10) for seventh in the GLIAC standings. It was a must-win situation for the Lakers, and they knew it.

And as the game rolled under two minutes to play, all the requisite pieces and players were in place to set the stage for the Hollywood-esque conclusion GVSU required. The Lakers, as a team, knew their parts well, had studied the script acted out on Feb. 1, and came prepared to rewrite it.

“It was another great team win,” she said. “We had pretty spread out scoring, no one really stood out individually and it was fun. To come from behind and close with a dramatic ending just added to it.”

GVSU trailed by as many as 15 in the game and by nine at the 4:20 mark in the second half, but it finished on a 10-0 run against the No. 1 team in the GLIAC.

Crandall scored seven of the Lakers’ final 10 points, including the three-point play that gave them their first and only lead of the contest, but it was a coordinated and sequenced effort that produced the final outcome.

As a team, the Lakers shot 51.9 percent from the field in the second half, drained 6-of-11 triples and converted 18 forced turnovers into 20 points to pull off the improbable upset. Junior center Daina Grazulis not only scored six points in the game but also tallied four blocks and made her mark on defense while replacing sophomore center Jill Steinmetz, who is out for the season with an ACL tear incurred Thursday.

Grazulis’ fourth and final block came against Brown and trickled into a 3-pointer put in from the wing by freshman forward Piper Tucker, which made it a 64-62 game with 1:45 left.

“Daina came in and played some huge minutes,” Burgess said. “With Jill out, our five player who gives us 35 minutes a night, Daina stepped in against a tough opponent and had a made some really smart defensive plays that sometimes only coaches can see with Dani and Taylor Lutz and Cripe and Piper (Tucker) – all of our kids that were on the court down the stretch did some special things.”

On the ensuing possession, Cripe intercepted the ball and got to the line with a chance to tie. She missed, as did Crandall on a pick-and-roll layup attempt with Grazulis, but even listeners tuned into the radio broadcast across the state might have felt the momentum shift as they played through the action in their mind’s eye.

“Our post players did an awesome job of stopping Shareta, Daina’s blocks were huge, Kat LaPrairie did a great job guarding her, too, and I think our rotation and help proved to be effective,” Cripe said. “We weren’t going to let this one slip.”

When Tucker stole the ball 35-feet out, forcing a shot-clock violation and setting up an inbound opportunity with just under 15 seconds to play, there was no doubt who the spotlight would turn on — and it came as no surprise when Crandall delivered.

Contrary to the script acted out on Feb. 1, it was the Lakers’ turn to collect a signature win on the season and enjoy a curtain call away from home.

“That Thursday game presented a lot of difficulties for us and we obviously didn’t come out on top, but I’m very proud of how we bounced back and responded on Saturday,” Burgess said. “All 15 kids that rode the bus down to Detroit had a huge impact on this victory with their energy, relentless ability to fight through adversity, and I’m proud of the collective effort.”

The Lakers will play their final regular season game at Ferris State University (9-13, 9-11 GLIAC) Thursday at 6 p.m. and will need a victory to have a chance to qualify for the GLIAC Tournament; only the top six teams advance, and the Lakers currently remain tied with SVSU for seventh.

“This team knows what’s on the line, so we’ll just talk and worry about what we need to do Thursday – play good defense, take good shots – against our biggest rival,” Burgess said. “When we’re playing the Bulldogs, we don’t need to bring any extra motivation to the table, and if you’re playing Ferris, you better bring your emotion, your best effort and your A-game.”

assistantsports@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “GVSU flips script in upset win at Wayne State”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

February 24, 2014 at 2:16 am

No. 3 GVSU softball starts anew

leave a comment »

Lakers look for new players to step up sans Martin


Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports EditorGVL / ArchiveSenior Briauna Taylor

“Every day is a new opportunity,” Cleveland Indian pitching great and first ballot MLB hall of famer Bob Feller once remarked. “You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again.

“That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.”

Softball is no different, and as the Grand Valley State University softball team embarks upon the 2014 season, the challenge at hand will be to both continue to build on past success while starting again with a new team and style currently under development.

Out with the old

The Lakers finished 46-9 in 2013 as one of four final Division II collegiate softball teams left playing in late May.In 2014, GVSU will begin the season where last year’s ended, ranked No. 3 in the preseason National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll behind defending champion Central Oklahmoma and runnerup Kutztown, with aspirations to return to the NCAA World Series tournament for the second time since 2002.

“I know everybody is excited to get back on the field,” said senior Brittany Taylor, who will make the jump from left field to center this season. “We have a lot to prove after finishing the way we did last year and we’re excited to show that GVSU is still a top-ranked team for a reason, even though we’re different than we were.”

The Lakers will also begin 2014 without the services of a 2013 senior class comprised of center fielder and leadoff hitter Nellie Kosola, second baseman Kayleigh Bertram, pitcher Hannah Santora, catcher Emily Holt, right fielder Emily Jones, utillity players KC Christopher and Maggie Kopas and GVSU’s very own ‘Sultan of Swat’, designated cleanup hitter Katie Martin.

Kosola holds the school record for triples and is second in both career hits and runs scored; she was an Daktronics All-American honorable mention last season.

Bertram is ninth in GVSU history in career at-bats, hits, runs and RBI at GVSU, eigth in total bases, sixth in career home runs and fourth in career doubles; she was an All-GLIAC honorable mention performer last season.

Jones is third in GVSU history in career doubles, seventh in home runs and 10th in slugging percentage; she started every game for the Lakers and was second in the GLIAC in doubles last season.

Holt commanded the backstop and anchored a pitching staff that featured both an All-GLIAC first team and second team selection, while throwing out a GLIAC-best 13 attempted base stealers with just two errors; she was also an All-GLIAC honorable mention performer last season

Santora won 26 games, which paced the GLIAC and was the third highest win total in GVSU history; she was named to the All-Midwest Region second team last season.

And Martin, well she’s GVSU’s record holder in career batting average (.438), hits (300), runs (188), doubles (72), RBI (240), total bases (555), walks (115), on-base percentage (.517), slugging percentage (.810) and has tattooed more home runs (59) than any other student-athlete, male or female, in GLIAC history; she became the first-ever two-time recipient of the Daktronics National Player of the Year award last season.

That’s attrition of not only four years of record breaking experience, but also of 325 of 449 hits (72.83 percent), 62 of 83 doubles (74.7 percent), seven of 11 triples (63.63 percent), 32 of 50 home runs (64 percent), 90 of 159 walks (56.6 percent), 470 of 704 total bases (66.76 percent), 199 of 280 RBI (71.1 percent), 174 of 307 runs scored (56.68 percent), half of the starting pitching rotation and 880 of all 1,454 (60.52) percent of all at-bats taken last season.

“We’re not really looking at it as replacing them or living up to what they did, but focusing on what we do best and making that work for this team this year,” senior first baseman Tonya Calkins said. “Initially we thought that we had to replace Katie Martin with home runs and replace Nellie Kosola with the amount of triples she hit, but in reality, we just have to play our own game.

“I have to do what I do best, Miranda has to do what she does best, Brittany and Briauna have to do what they do best and the pieces will fall into place as they should.”

With the understanding that last season is over, and that replacing irreplaceable players and over 50 percent of a team’s production is a daunting challenge, the Lakers’ will begin to address concerns in more detail as the snow melts and the fields slowly (and hopefully surely) begin to thaw.

In with the new 

And as the winter evolves into spring, so too will the Lakers. From a power-orientated team with a rigid identity that slugs to score to a speed-orientated team in flux that gets on-base and manufactures runs through small ball tactics.

A new team with different players and the same goals — to be competitive in the GLIAC and gain entry into an NCAA regional.

“I told the girls last year was a great year, but that one’s finished and we go from here,” GVSU skipper Doug ‘Doc’ Woods said. “We’ll just try to do the best we can and I think we have a good core of players to work with to put together a good season.”

A core of five seniors return to the diamond for the Lakers, including Brittany Taylor, her twin sister Briauna, Calkins, Miranda Cleary and Kayla Hurd.

Briauna Taylor, a three-time All-GLIAC first team short stop, will man the hole once again for the Lakers and will look to steady the lineup. Calkins and Cleary, an All-GLIAC first team third baseman, will once again cover the corners, providing GVSU with a steady and seasoned infield.

Freshman Jenna Lenza will be the likely replacement for Bertram at second base.

Last season, the outfield composed of Brittany Taylor, Kosola and Jones started every game for the Lakers, although this season, only Taylor returns. Competition has been steep in the early weeks for the other two outfielder jobs and permanent starters likely won’t be named until the conclusion of the squad’s spring break trip to Florida.

Sophomores Chelsea Horvath, a primary pinch-runner last year, and McKenze Supernaw are early favorites, although a fleet of freshman, including Kelsey Dominguez, Ali Vander Meer and Megan Downey and dual-sport athlete Janae Langs, should also factor in.

Sophomore Marianna Deppe, who was injured as a freshman, will take over primary catcher’s duty, while sophomore Taylor Fris will take on the unenviable task of replacing Martin at DH.

“I’m really excited to see how we all fit,” Briauna Taylor said. “I think we have all the talent in the world. It’s just a matter of whether not we can put it all together and play a good softball game. I think we have the goods to compete in the GLIAC and the nation, but it will be interesting to see how we come together as a team.”

Offensively, between the corners and the Taylors, GVSU returns 137 hits (30.51 percent), 17 doubles (20.5 percent), four triples (36.36 percent), 15 homers (30 percent), 59 walks (37.1 percent), 267 total bases (37.92 percent), 74 RBI (26.42 percent), 107 runs scored (34.85 percent) and 423 at-bats (29 percent) of last year’s take.

Briauna Taylor will enter her last go around at GVSU in any sport ranked fourth in career batting average (.387) and slugging percentage (.613), fifth in home runs (22), and eighth in on-base percentage (.436). Cleary is currently ranked third in Laker career history in home runs (37), fifth in RBI (127) and slugging percentage (.582), and ninth in walks (63).

Only this season, instead of making ticker-tape parade rounds along the base paths following towering home run shots, they’ll be asked to produce in new and different ways.

“Us seniors, we laugh about it,” Calkins said. “‘We’ll ask Doc, ‘wait, what’s a bunt?’. We haven’t had to do that much in the past, and we’re working on changing the game. Our game.”

“We’re not going to sit and wait for someone to hit a home run — we may have to be more aggressive on the base paths then we were. Last year, we could get some people on and wait for an extra-base hit and we may not have that luxary this year. We may have to start to hit-and-run more, and different things along those lines.”

Sophomore Sara Andrasik, who last year was named GLIAC freshman of the year and an All-America honorable mention after going 20-4 with a 1.59 ERA, 161 strikeouts and two no-hitters in 149.2 innings pitched, will take over as the Lakers’ No. 1 starter.

Hurd as well as junior Sarah Wyse, fresh face junior Lauren Gevaart and freshman Ellie Balbach will help to fill in the gaps on the mound.

“We’re fortunate to have Sara Andrasik back — a freshman pitcher who won 20 games — and that’s a big help right there,” Woods said. “I think her confidence level from last year has really grown, she’s matured and I told her that’s she basically going to be the workhorse of the staff this year. I think she relishes that opportunity.

“As for the rest of the staff, we just hope for organic development — we’re going to have to see how that develops.”

A new spring

The Lakers will begin their season Saturday and Sunday with an indoor tournament at the Rosemont Dome just outside of O’Hare airport in Rosemont, Ill. GVSU will face off against Winona State and Lewis Saturday, Upper Iowa and Wisconsin-Parkside Sunday — all Divsion II opponents — as they begin to put the pieces together.

It will be the first time the Lakers have played before their Florida trip in Woods’ tenure, which this year will be scheduled to commence Mar. 1 and be played through Mar. 9.

It will be the first in four years that the Lakers have started a season without Martin and crew on the roster.

It will be the 2014 squad’s first time to play a real game together, and GVSU’s first official game back since a 7-2 loss to Kutztown in last year’s semifinal. An opportunity to move on, to build fresh and start in on a new season — and the Lakers are excited to have it.

“We lost a chunk of key players so a lot of it will be getting a feel for everyone and how they play so that we’re able to play as a team,” Cleary said. “I think for our seniors, it’s a challenge to lead by example — we have to teach just like we were taught — and get that team chemistry to way it was before. We had a team that played together for close to three years and that can be faked or put together overnight. We have the talent, it’s just putting it together.

“With that in mind, we’ll just take each play, each hit, each swing one at a time. We’re a young team and if we try to do too much, I think we’ll get ahead of ourselves. We’ll take it game by game, not fixate on the big picture and focus instead on each individual goal. And as long as we play together, we can go as far as we need to go.”

assistantsports@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “No. 3 GVSU softball starts anew”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

February 20, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Inspiring senior thrills Fieldhouse Arena in OT

leave a comment »

Crandall’s 36-point night carries GVSU past Northwood


 Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor

Senior guard Dani Crandall stole the show as the Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team defeated Northwood University 76-67 in an overtime thriller performed Saturday evening on the Fieldhouse floor; she scored the first and last points of the game and played in 43 minutes of the 45-minute affair.

Enthralling as the game was, the curtain-to-call performance wasn’t just for effect — every minute and every act mattered. Although, not every act was conscious and none of the performance was forced.

“I honestly never know how much I score until the next day,” she said. “I knew the game was close, but I didn’t realize it was as close as it was the entire time. I thought we were up six or seven points for the majority of the game because we were clicking so well.

“I just played. We were just playing. We let the game come to us, I let the game come to me and in the last few minutes and overtime — I don’t know, I just played and it worked.”

Crandall has exceeded 20 points five times now this season and has recorded three double-doubles, but when she compiled a career-high 36 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field and 13-of-16 shooting from the free-throw line to post the highest Laker point total since Feb. 2005, every point and every one of her 10 rebounds meant something.

Her electric output encapsulated a victory that was not only efficient, but also economic. No frivolous free throws. No directionless drives to the lane. A display that was both direct in execution and enigmatic in effect.

“Dani is playing tremendously consistent, the team’s playing consistent, we’re getting the ball to the right people at the right times and executing down the stretch,” head coach Janel Burgess said. “We knew what was riding on this game and we have a young group of competitors that understood it — they weren’t pressured or pressing to do anything special — they just knew we had to be consistent with what we’ve been doing, which is play good defense and fight through challenges as they present themselves.

“With 10 minutes to go, I told myself as I was pacing the sidelines that this game was going to come down to which team can execute down the stretch — and we executed well on both ends.”

GVSU (13-10, 11-8) broke a three-way tie for seventh place with Northwood and Hillsdale College to move into sole possession of sixth place in the GLIAC standings with one last home game yet to be played this season — a 6 p.m. matchup on Thursday against Saginaw Valley State University.

The Lakers have just three regular season games left on the schedule. Playoff implications will be on the line, and every win gleaned from here to the GLIAC Tournament will hold significance.

“We needed this win, and we wanted this win more than any other win this season,” Crandall said. “I know I had however many points, but we played like a team the entire time; you could tell how much we wanted it, and that’s really what got us that victory.”

It took an ensemble, not just Crandall in the lead, to get the job done. All the parts came together at the right time and the final result was no act.

Freshman forward Piper Tucker — who played the role of an efficacious scorer with 18 points in a come-from-behind 72-63 victory at home against Lake Superior State University on Thursday — returned Saturday to stifle an 8-0 Northwood run in the first half with back-to-back triples.

“It never happened to me before where I shot like I did Thursday and helped to bring my team back — it was a little shocking, honestly — but it was an amazing feeling to get the last two wins the way we did,” Tucker said. “Dani had amazing games, our team is so together and knowing that she’s the leader and we’re behind her every step of the way makes it mean more.”

Crandall matched Tucker against LSSU on Thursday with 18 points and five rebounds of her own, although junior forward Kat LaPrairie, who added 13 points in just 18 minutes and sophomore center Jill Steinmetz, who recorded 10 rebounds to go along with nine points, played equally essential supporting roles.GVL / Emily FryeJunior Kat LaPrairie

Freshman guard Taylor Lutz handed out a game-high five assists in the victory and dished out a game-high six assists in 39 minutes of action on Saturday, while fellow freshman forward Kayla Dawson earned her fourth double-double of the season against the Timberwolves with 13 points and 11 boards after a quiet game against LSSU.

“It was a team win from top-to-bottom,” Crandall said of the Northwood game. “We were finding the people that we needed to find in the moment, playing smart basketball and although a lot of people contributed in ways that aren’t going to show up in the stat sheet or newspaper, we know how important every single person was to that win — from the coaches to the end of the bench, everyone played a role.”

Following Tucker’s accentuation from downtown, the lead would change hands four more times before the first half closed with the Lakers up 27-25, a lead GVSU managed to maintain until a Northwood layup knotted the score at 31-31 with 15:03 left in the second stanza.

The Lakers countered with three consecutive layups from Crandall, Dawson and junior guard Meryl Cripe, and led 54-50 with 2:44 remaining in regulation before Northwood scored the game’s next five points to go ahead one minute and 20 seconds later.

Crandall turned in a timely layup with 12 seconds remaining in regulation to cut a three-point deficit to one, but a Northwood free throw one second later made it a 60-58 game. GVSU called a timeout as the spotlight was once aimed in the direction of its senior leader.

Crandall drove to the rim, drew a foul and sunk a pair of free throws to tie the game at 60 apiece with two seconds to go. The crowd erupted, but it wasn’t quite time to take a bow.

She capped the night by scoring eight of GVSU’s 10 points in overtime, including two final free throws to put the win on ice. The Lakers never trailed in the five-minute stanza and held Northwood to 1-of-11 shooting in extra time, to 20-of-69 in the game.

“Dani did a great job of composing herself — there’s a lot of pressure in those last few seconds — but everyone rose to the occasion,” Burgess said. “We executed well, got ourselves an opportunity to play into overtime and really took control once we were there.”

The Lakers celebrated briefly with the band as they ran off the court to cheers. It was a bow-worthy moment and a bow-worthy performance, although the Lakers and Crandall declined to take it. Not yet.

GVSU will return to the Fieldhouse Arena for an encore Thursday. It will be Crandall’s senior day, her last game at home as a Laker, and she’ll be recognized at halftime of the men’s game against SVSU, along with fellow seniors Rob Woodson and Joe Gurzick.

“I would hope that we can continue to play,” Crandall said. “That we can get what will be my last win on our home court. That we can keep the ball rolling as a team, get into the tournament and go from there.”

assistantsports@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “Inspiring senior thrill Fieldhouse Arena in OT”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

February 17, 2014 at 12:28 am

Crandall leaves more than a smile at GV

leave a comment »

Lone senior sets example for young Laker women


Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor

GVL / Robert Mathews            Dani Crandall
Dani Crandall joined the Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team in 2010 with dreams — winning a national championship, for one — and the right to chase them.

Crandall also packed a smile that she brought with her from Eaton Rapids, Mich., as a freshman. A smile that was never crooked. Not even after it caught an errant elbow from a teammate in practice and lost a tooth.

She kept smiling, and perhaps more than anything else, that smile will mark her tenure as a four-year contributor at GVSU.

“What Dani will leave at this program is a beautiful smile that she gives to everybody all the time,” GVSU coach Janel Burgess said. “During our win Saturday against Michigan Tech, she smiled during every minute.

“She has smiled ever since she came here, whatever she was asked to do. She has been able to smile through adversity, and she’s been able to stay true to the course — which is commendable. Through it all, Dani has smiled, and we’re better as a program because she did.”

As a freshman, Crandall averaged 16.7 minutes, five points and three rebounds per contest and played in 22 games.

As a sophomore, Crandall played in all 26 games, started two and averaged 22 minutes, four points and four rebounds per contest as the team’s sixth man.

Last year as a junior, Crandall saw time in all 27 games, started 18 and averaged 25 minutes, eight points and four rebounds per contest.

As Crandall’s minutes have grown, so has her production and her role on the team. Like a smile spreading from smirk-to-grin-to-beam.

“She has really matured, especially being the only senior now, as both a player and a person,” junior center Daina Grazulis said. “Dani has always been able to score and get to the basket, but now can finish around the rim, and that’s something she has developed over the years. She’s made finishing a priority and can make virtually any shot.

“Dani has also facilitated our growth as a team this season and has been there for us through all the trying times. We owe it to her that we are such a cohesive unit this year.”

Now a senior and the lone four-year player left at GVSU, Crandall leads the Lakers in most statistical categories, including minutes (28.3), points (12.7), rebounds (5.8), assists (3.09) and field-goal percentage (51.6 percent on 95-of-184 shooting).

Crandall also ranks second in blocks (8), steals (19), free throws attempted (100) and free throws made (69) — numbers that not only dwarf her production from previous years, but also resemble those of last year’s leading scorer Briauna Taylor, who averaged 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game.

“My role went from playing behind some great players like Briauna Taylor to being the only one with experience,” Crandall said. “I wasn’t expecting to fill Briauna’s shoes — I don’t feel like I have all the talent that Briauna had — but I was hoping to lead the team by my experience here and show the younger kids that a staple of this program is hard work.”

Crandall has given plenty to the university and its athletic program during her time at GVSU. Like helping the Lakers perpetuate a streak of eight conference tournament appearances in nine years, including an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2011, as a freshman.

She has also provided her teammates and school with ample memories to remember her by.

Like a game-winning 3-point dagger against Wayne State University last year with 1:06 left on the clock put the Lakers up to stay, for instance.

A victory against Michigan Technological University last season was one of Crandall’s personal favorites.

“It was the first time in my career that we had beat them and we just killed them,” Crandall said. “I don’t know how to say that nicely, but we killed them on our home court, which was great.”

Or again against MTU on Saturday, when Crandall logged 28 minutes and scored a career-high 28 points, many of which came with four fouls to her name, to move GVSU (11-10, 9-8 GLIAC) to a game over .500 both overall and in the GLIAC. It might have been her biggest performance and game, yet.

She, for all her efforts toward this unfinished season, has also played an integral role in integrating GVSU for the future. Seven newcomers — two transfers and five freshman — enrolled this season and have seemed to step effortlessly into the fray.

“As a head coach, you always wonder what a kid’s going to bring to the program,” Burgess said. “Dani’s been here for four years and throughout those four years, she has continued to be a Laker student-athlete in every sense, has a genuine character that has imbedded greatness in everything that she does, is a tremendous leader that leads by example, both through her hard work and production and what she has given this young team, I’m not sure anyone can define or describe.

“She has been relentless, a motherly figure to these young women in so many ways, yet demands greatness from them every step of the way, and I really believe that she will be remembered as one of the greatest leaders that has gone through this program since I’ve been here. Dani’s had a different role every year, and has always risen to that role and played it to the best of her ability, and we wouldn’t be the team we are today or can be tomorrow without her.”

With two signature wins and a pair of two-point losses in its last four games at home, GVSU is primed and playing some of its best basketball of the season.

Crandall, who has averaged 19 points during that span, has been a big part of the progress.

As the Lakers build toward a potential GLIAC run with NCAA tournament aspirations, Crandall said she feels a national championship run is close, whether it be this year or in the near future.

“The things I’m doing now are for the future,” she said. “The ways that I lead are for the younger kids, the freshmen, the second-year, third-year kids even. I’m hoping that the things that I do and the example I provide can carry over after I’m gone.

“Especially in the close years to come, I think GVSU is going to be successful. We have all the right tools, will have experience by the time these freshmen are juniors and seniors and the high basketball IQ that we have will continue to grow the more they play together.”

Whether she’s right or not, Crandall’s name won’t be found in the GVSU record book, and unless the Lakers win it all this season, she won’t be given credit for any national championship if and when it comes.

Which is fine by Crandall, who has never been about numbers or points or playing time or credit. Crandall instead is a leader and quality person first, a basketball player second — and a good one at that. An individual who excels in a variety of facets and roles and sports — she had options to play both soccer and volleyball in college — and does it all with a smile.

“When my career is over, I would hope that they would say that I was a well-balanced person and young lady on and off the court, that people had fun around me, that I was funny,” she said. “That they remember something about me, whether it’s those things, something silly that I did — like when I got my tooth knocked out, or something simple, like when I smile.”

assistantsports@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “Crandall leaves more than a smile at GV”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

February 12, 2014 at 7:33 am

Senior fuels GVSU in upset victory over MTU

leave a comment »

Crandall nets career-high 28 despite foul trouble


Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor

GVL / Robert Mathews Kayla Dawson

Senior guard Dani Crandall propelled the Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team to a 32-19 halftime lead over Michigan Technological University on Saturday afternoon after scoring the first nine Laker points.

Crandall racked up 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field in the first half but began the second stanza with her first turnover of the game. She changed directions, charged back up the court to make a stand, and challenged an MTU layup at the rim.

It was the sort of play that can change a game, similar to how Tayshaun Prince’s come-from-behind block changed things for Reggie Miller’s Pacers in 2004. In its own way, Crandall’s contesting of the shot did alter the dynamic in what became a 72-62 Laker upset victory.

The Eaton Rapids, Mich., product was whistled for her fourth foul of the game and — as a fleet of baton twirlers followed GVSU feature twirler Moriah Muscaro to the floor to perform — was immediately beckoned to the bench.

“She sat quite a bit, but she stayed engaged in the game,” GVSU coach Janel Burgess said of her team captain, Crandall. “Whenever you have a senior that has to sit as much as she did in a crucial part of the game, knowing that this is a crucial game for us, staying engaged shows great leadership and the players on the court were still able to feed off of what she was giving them from the bench.”

The game went through a metamorphosis in the next 10 minutes of play.

Junior guard Meryl Cripe broke a three-minute scoring drought with a mid-range jumper at the 17:51 mark to extend the Laker lead to 34-19, but the lead slowly began to evaporate.

As Crandall sat, the Huskies applied heat. A free throw here and a converted layup there deteriorated the commanding GVSU advantage, and then a trio of consecutive MTU 3-pointers cut the deficit to a single point.

The Lakers led 46-45 with 8:15 left on the clock.

“I don’t think I’d call that situation nerve-racking,” Burgess said. “When you challenge your young kids, you have to give them a chance to represent for your senior that doesn’t have the opportunity to compete right then until the end, and they did that, doggone it.”

Sophomore guard Bailey Cairnduff made a leaning jumper in the lane off an assist from freshman forward Kayla Dawson — then Crandall reentered the game off a timeout at the 7:51 mark.

After securing a rebound, she found freshman forward Piper Tucker on the bench-side wing.

The crowd and baton twirlers watched with baited breath as the ball traveled toward a wide-open Tucker in that silent moment. The only audible sound was Burgess confidently commanding Tucker to “hit it.”

Tucker obliged and sunk a 3-pointer that barely touched the net on it’s way down.

“When Bailey hits that pull-up J to put the spread up to three,” Burgess said. “When Piper hit that big 3-pointer right after that. Those are two young kids that made big plays and that puts the kind of game that this was and our growth in perspective.”

Crandall then connected on a contested layup to put the Lakers up 53-45 and helped the Lakers close out the game by contributing six points to an 11-2 run over a three-minute span.

The lead would last, and this time, it was the Lakers, not just the game, that would be transformed.

“This was a great team win and I don’t think we’ve played any better together this season,” Crandall said. “Top to bottom, we were focused, ready, the energy we had from the entire team was incredible, and from the bench, it carried onto the court. It was a fun team victory.

“It’s all about the roles that you play in the moment. When I’m on the court, we rely on our bench for energy, so as soon as I get to the bench, it’s now my turn and I have to (be a) cheerleader. I can’t get in a hole, because that can spread throughout the team. Have to keep a positive attitude and when you get in foul trouble like that, for the team to pick it up and ball out, well it’s a good feeling.”

She finished with a career-high 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field despite playing in just 28 minutes and most of the second half with four personal fouls. She also went 7-for-7 from the foul line, grabbed seven rebounds, and tallied two assists while adding a block and a steal.

Dawson finished with 12 points and 12 boards for her second double-double in as many games.

“All of our energy from the bench, from everyone, with Dani leading us, became a tangible element and I could feel it on the court,” she said. “Dani’s rebounding, playing defense and leading us and when she got into foul trouble, we all realized that we needed to step up. We all have to start getting rebounds, we all need to start picking it up on defense, talking, scoring, everything.

“The past three or four games, our energy has been different and that has to carry over into our next game. Being young, consistency is something we’re still working on, but that energy is something that can be sustained.”

As a team, GVSU shot 40.4 percent from the field and went 10-for-29 from 3-point against MTU. On defense, the Lakers held the Huskies to their worst shooting performance — 22-for-71 from the field (31 percent) — of the 2013-2014 season to date and have allowed just 175 points in their last three games — the lowest three-game total of the year.

“We’re playing really good defense and we’re always talking about consistency, on the defensive end especially,” Burgess said. “We did a tremendous job of staying focused on the defensive end and made them have to earn tough shots.”

GVSU (11-10, 9-8 GLIAC) will hit the road for the first time this month on Thursday night for a rematch with Lake Superior State University (5-18, 5-12 GLIAC), a team the Lakers defeated 74-67 at home on Jan. 23.

“We’ll enjoy this win because of how we had to do it,” Burgess said. “After taking two tough losses in three games this week, to be able to be resilient and to stay true to the course, it’s tough. When you’re young, you could easily hang your head, but these girls come every day prepared and kept grinding it out.

“We’re young, but we’re maturing. I’ve challenged them in a variety of ways to mature and they do it, which has been encouraging to see. I’m proud of them.”

assistantsports@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “Senior fuels GVSU in upset victory over MTU”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

February 9, 2014 at 7:27 am

Laker women bury 10 threes to best FSU

leave a comment »

GVSU shoots 10-of-20 from beyond the arc in rivalry win


Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor

‘Omne trium perfectum’ is a latin phrase that suggests every set of three is not only complete, but more satisfying than other numbers of things — that everything that comes in threes is perfect.12239_womenvswayne_rgb07o

The Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team wasn’t perfect in a 67-50 Monday night victory against arch-rival Ferris State University, but perhaps the game proved the Romans were onto something.

GVSU’s defense played in accordance to the game’s promotional billing as a “Blackout” and allowed a season-low 50 points.

“One of our biggest truths this season has been when our defense is working for us, then our offense is working for us,” senior Dani Crandall said. “We got a great performance from everybody that was involved in the game, and I think we played our best 40 minutes as a team, top to bottom, that we have this entire season.”

FSU was limited to three 3-pointers on the night in 12 attempts and shot 19-for-54 (35.2 percent) from the field.

GVSU’s offense tallied a collective 16 assists and shot 10-for-20 from 3-point in the game, including six treys in the second half. Three Lakers — freshman guard Taylor Lutz, junior point guard Meryl Cripe and Crandall — each logged 30 minutes or more and combined to dish out 14 assists.

“It’s nice to make shots, but it’s also nice that as we approach the end of the season, that we know each other well enough to know who’s hot at the right time,” Cripe said. “Kat (LaPrairie) was hot and she knocked down some huge shots. Jill (Steinmetz) hit a couple and she’s been consistently doing that, which is awesome for our team, and when we find those shooters, they’re shooting the ball with great confidence.”

While the lady Lakers remind themselves regularly that Rome was not built in a day, they might also reflect upon what could be their most complete victory of the season and the rule and role of “three” in it.

“There’s a lot of great emotions that go with that rivalry game, and I thought we brought our best effort to it,” head coach Janel Burgess said. “We’ve been striving to put together a full 40 minutes as a team, and this was the closest we’ve come all year to doing just that, which means we’re getting better.”

In three games leading up to Monday’s showdown, GVSU went 0-3 starting with a 73-64 defeat at Northwood University, then a 91-79 defeat at Saginaw Valley State University, followed by a 78-76 last-second loss against Wayne State University.

It was fitting, then, that GVSU put a stop to the three-game skid in the first of three games to be played this week between Feb. 3 and Feb. 8 with a 3-pointer.

LaPrairie scored 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting from 3-point and helped the Lakers out to a 7-2 lead by sinking two triples within the first six minutes and 30 seconds of play.

FSU responded with a 9-2 run to capture the third lead change of the game, but it would be its last.

Steinmetz, a sophomore center for GVSU, struck from the 3-point to put the Lakers up for good shortly thereafter.

“We had some great ball movement, which allowed us to find open teammates and make each other look and feel better by creating open opportunities,” Burgess said.

The Lakers carried a three-point lead into the locker rooms up 25-22 but connected on back-to-back 3-pointers from LaPrairie and Lutz just 38 seconds into the second half to give GVSU a 31-25 advantage.

More than three minutes later, sophomore guard Bailey Cairnduff, Steinmetz and freshman forward Piper Tucker scored three more 3-pointers in succession — each in the span of one minute — to extend the Laker lead to 42-33.

Then, at the three-minute mark, Lutz completed a three-point play the hard way by sinking both a contested layup and the ensuing free throw before passing the ball through the lane from her knees, Curly Neal style, to assist freshman forward Kayla Dawson in completing her own old-fashioned three-point play.

Dawson’s free throw put GVSU up 61-43, and the Lakers went on to lead by as many as 19 points before the final whistle blew.

It was the Lakers’ third victory in a row against the Bulldogs.12238_womenvswayne_rgb03p

“Our consistency was much better on both ends of the court,” Burgess said. “We took care of the ball, used tempo to our advantage both when we had open transition opportunities and, more importantly, when we needed to pull it back a little bit to make sure we got the offensive sets we wanted.”

Dawson paced GVSU with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds to record the second double-double of her collegiate career. It was also the fourth double-double by a Laker since Jan. 24.

Lutz added 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting and dished out four assists, Cripe paced GVSU with six assists to go along with eight points, and Crandall added six rebounds and four assists to go with three points.

“We just have to keep pushing for more,” Burgess said. “This was a good game for us in many respects, but we can still be more consistent. We can still play a better 40 minutes of basketball, and that’s what we’ll look to do in our next two upcoming games.”

GVSU (10-9, 8-7 GLIAC) is now 6-1 at home and will host Northern Michigan University (12-7, 9-6 GLIAC) Thursday and Michigan Technological University (15-4, 13-2 GLIAC) Saturday to round out the week.

The Lakers lost to NMU 81-66 and to MTU 76-54 in their trip to the Upper Peninsula in December.

“It’s an opportunity, not for revenge, but for redemption,” Crandall said. “Any team in the GLIAC is capable of beating any other team in the GLIAC by almost any margin on any given night — that’s been proven this season, but the way we’ve been playing the last couple games, if we keep this ball rolling, then I think the next couple games and the rest of the season will take care of itself as far as wins and losses go.”

assistantsports@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “Laker women bury 10 threes to best FSU”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

February 5, 2014 at 7:22 am

No. 18 Wayne State spoils upset bid for GVSU

leave a comment »

Lakers fall in waning moments, snap home winning streak


Pete Barrows
Assistant Sports Editor

When mixing a pitcher of Kool-Aid sans any measuring instruments, “close” can get you a couple of refreshing glasses.

After rolling out of bed past the alarm and into class past the bell, “close” can save you an absent mark and a dirty glance.

In horseshoes and hand grenades, it turns out that “close” can be downright effective. Sometimes “close” can cut it. But not in basketball.12221_womenvswayne_rgb06p

The Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team was close in its last two games — a 91-79 loss at Saginaw Valley State University on Thursday and a 78-76 defeat against Wayne State University on Saturday in Allendale — but didn’t cut it on the scoreboard or in the standings.

The lady Lakers have not only lost six of their last seven games but also had their nine-game home winning streak snapped.

“It’s just us,” head coach Janel Burgess said. “We’re fighting consistency, fighting through those little slumps of offensive woes that we have to where we can fight back and find a victory down the stretch. We’re very, very, very, very close.”

Close.

Like when GVSU shot 57.6 percent from the field in the second half of Thursday’s rivalry matchup and nearly completed a comeback against SVSU (9-7, 7-6 GLIAC) after shooting just 37.5 percent in the first half.

“When it comes to consistency, we just have to keep reminding ourselves that nothing is going to be handed to us,” senior guard Meryl Cripe said. “We have to be ready to play every game and be consistent in our effort in what we do so that we’re beating teams we should be beating and not losing to teams we shouldn’t be losing to.

“It’s a must to be successful when you should be.”

SVSU led 12-9 at the 11:40 mark of the first half but embarked on a 22-5 run to take control of the game. The Cardinals made 8-of-9 field goals — four of which from 3-point range — during the six minute span and led 47-35 at halftime.

They shot 61.5 percent from the field in the opening stanza.

GVSU returned from the locker room and responded with a 9-0 run of its own during a two-minute span. A jumper from senior guard Dani Crandall started the chain and made the score 67-58; freshman guard Taylor Lutz sunk 3-pointer 30-seconds later; sophomore center Jill Steinmetz extended the run with a layup; then freshman forward Kayla Dawson made it a two-point game with 7:31 left on the clock.

The Lakers took a 73-72 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the game, but it wouldn’t last.

The Cardinals put together a 14-4 run over the next three minutes to close the cover on any comeback attempt the Lakers might have drummed up.

Kat LaPrairie scored 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting and connected on four 3-pointers to lead the Laker charge, while Crandall contributed 18 points and five rebounds in the loss. Lutz, who made her second consecutive start, finished with 13 points.

“I’m proud of our effort, our ability to control what we could control and that we played fairly consistent — which I’ve been challenging us to do,” Burgess said. “We just didn’t do quite enough to win.”

So close.12220_womenvswayne_rgb02o

Like on Saturday afternoon, when the Lakers returned home, where they had outscored opponents by an average of 11.6 points per game, to commence a four-game homestand and defend a 5-0 home record against the No. 18 team in the nation, WSU (16-2, 13-1GLIAC), and GLIAC leading scorer Shareta Brown.

The Lakers led 33-30 at halftime, although it took several lead changes to get there.

WSU began the game on a 9-2 run. GVSU then scored 12 unanswered points and extended the run into an 18-11 advantage — its largest of the afternoon.

Every time GVSU stretched the lead, WSU would reel it back in. The game was tied on three different occasions before the first half came to a close and a total of six times five minutes into the second.

“These last two games were all about knowing personnel and I thought we did a nice job of playing to the game plan,” Burgess said. “Against Wayne, we had about a 90-second lapse where we let things get a little hairy and dropped some assignments, but we bounced back and had every opportunity down the stretch to pull out a victory.”

The Lakers were on the doorstep with 15 seconds left as Crandall knocked down a pair of clutch free throws to make it 76-76, but Brown had a chance to make the game-winning shot from the left block seven seconds later, and she did.

Dawson fired from the wing for the tie with one second left, but the shot came up just short — and so did the Lakers.

But no cigar.

“The possession we can look back on is when we gave up two offensive rebounds with just under a minute to play,” Burgess said. “If we secure one of those, perhaps it’s a little different dynamic for the finish.”

Crandall scored a career-high 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting, tallied 10 rebounds and recorded three assists in the game. It was her second 20-point game of the season and her second double-double in four games.

Four other Lakers joined Crandall in double-figures. Steinmetz poured in 14 points, while LaPrairie, Dawson and Lutz tallied 10 points apiece, but it wasn’t enough. Just close.

“Kayla Dawson is one of the strongest girls on the court at any given time,” Crandall said. “Piper Tucker and Taylor Lutz are giving us some great minutes. Bailey Cairnduff and LaPrairie are pure shooters and can light it up. Jill Steinmetz is coming into her own in the post and we have a deep bench.

“We have all the parts, and when we play the way that we can play, we’re successful. I feel like we’re close to putting it together consistently.”

GVSU (9-9, 7-7 in GLIAC) will host Ferris State University (6-9, 6-7 GLIAC) at 6:00 p.m. Monday in the Fieldhouse Arena before welcoming Northern Michigan University (12-6, 9-5 GLIAC) on Thursday and Michigan Technological University (14-4, 12-2 GLIAC) on Saturday.

assistantsports@lanthorn.com

To read the original post “No. 18 Wayne State spoils upset bid for GVSU”, click here at the Lanthorn online.

Written by peterdbarrows

February 2, 2014 at 7:17 am