For the average Carl, winter break is a time when hard work takes a back seat in favor of six weeks of rest, relaxation and comprehensive decompression. This couldn’t be further from reality for our noble Knights of the hardwood, Carleton’s men’s and women’s basketball squads, who have valiantly donned the blue and maize throughout the six week intermission.
Only halting for a less than two week break, the two programs have combined to play twenty six games since the end of fall term, including a decent portion of their respective league schedules. As winter term commences, both teams will look to finish their seasons on a positive note.
Women’s basketball opened their season with three wins in their first four games, including an impressive 98-93 overtime win against the University of Dubuque that saw four Knights finish in double digits. The Knights have cooled off as of late though, dropping their last twelve straight. Carleton holds a record of three wins and thirteen losses, and is ranked last in the MIAC standings with a zero and nine win-loss record.
Though currently riding a double-digit losing streak, optimism still abounds for the Knights, in the form of familiar faces, as well as new ones. Captain Cece DeLeone ’20 has been a consistent force, leading the team in both points and rebounds, including a huge 28-point, nine-rebound effort against Dubuque. Members of the Knights’ freshman class have also made a huge impact. point guard Jill Yanai ’22 leads all Knights with 50 assists, and Anabella Jensen is second among qualifying Knights in both points and rebounds per game.
The squad has a list of areas to improve upon as the season nears its end. “As a team, we are working towards finishing games,” said Jensen. “We know we can win by managing turnovers and playing as a team. We often have tremendous effort and execution in the first half, but we are specifically looking to extend our efforts into the second half by successfully executing our game plan.”
The Knights spent five November days in Southern California, playing at a tournament in Kaiser Permanente Stadium, home of the Golden State Warriors’ G-League franchise, where they grew together on and off the court. “Our time in California really brought us together as a group,” Jensen said. “I’d say our California trip and time spent living as a team in Evans over winter break were most crucial in terms of team bonding.”
Team morale has been positive throughout the struggles, according to Jensen. “Our team has contagious energy. We are always spreading positivity and celebrating one another.”
On the men’s side, the Knights return from winter break with an eye on a MIAC playoff berth. The men carry a combined record of five wins and ten losses, and a MIAC league record of three wins and seven losses. They currently sit in the eighth seed, two positions back of the sixth-placed Hamline Pipers, for the final MIAC playoff spot.
Captain Quinn Johnson ’19, four year starter and team leader in assists, has already seen significant improvement from his squad. “It’s been an interesting year,” said Johnson. “We have six freshman and seven returners, so it’s just a really unique balance of maturity and immaturity. I think where we’ve grown the most is in the maturity level of our team…not giving up on your teammates, not giving up on a game, and not giving up on a possession.”
The Knights are led offensively by forward Kent Hanson ’20, who has garnered lots of recognition for his outstanding play, including MIAC Conference Player of the Week and D3hoops.com’s National Team of the Week for Dec. 10-15. Hanson is just one of many capable members of the Knights’ roster.
Johnson speaks highly of the Knights’ depth. “You look at teams like St. John’s and St. Thomas, and they have 25, 30 guys on the roster, and then you look at us and we have 11 or 12. We might have a small roster but we’ve got very good players that can come in and play well at any moment for us. We’ve got a balanced team and it can be anyone’s night, any night.”
Highlights thus far for the Knights include a sensational sequence by Matthew Stritzel, who hit three three-pointers in a matter of seventeen seconds to give the Knights a last minute victory over St. Mary’s University, Joe Thursby’s ’22 three consecutive treys off the bench to spark a victory over Macalester, and Hanson’s 32 point, eight-rebound night in a victory over UW-Eau Claire.
“I think we got five guys out on the court at all times that know what their role is, and what their job is,” Johnson said. “We don’t have selfish players. We have people who know that they’re our best scorers, and people that know they’re lock down defenders. We are pretty cohesive as a unit, when it comes to what our coaches expect from us out there.”
Both the women’s and men’s teams will look for wins this Saturday, January 19, at West Gym. The women will take on the College of Saint Benedict at 1 p.m., while the men tip off at 3 p.m., against St. John’s University.