With six seconds left in a tie game, junior Jodi Marver stood 94 feet away from her team’s basket. Six seconds later, Knox had captured a 91-89 victory over Grinnell College.
After securing a defensive rebound, Marver was fouled by Grinnell’s Alex Plemmons earning a trip to the free throw line and a chance to seal the game.
“I have to make these free throws,” Marver thought to herself.
Marver admitted to feeling the pressure after the game, but did not display any nervousness in the moment, nailing both shots to give the Prairie Fire the lead.
“I was confident the free throws were going to go in, but I was worried about [Grinnell] shooting a three,” Head Coach Emily Cline said.
Prior to Marver’s free throws, the teams had traded the lead multiple times in the second half, each failing to capitalize on opportunities to take the lead with a shot in the last minute.
But Cline’s worry would not come to fruition, as Grinnell settled for a midrange runner that rimmed out, preventing the teams from entering overtime.
The win came harder than the Prairie Fire would have liked after leading by 14 with just over 12 minutes to play. In less than four minutes, the Pioneers not only closed the gap, but grabbed the lead away at 64-63.
While Knox could have collapsed after the disappointing stretch, adjustments were made to keep the Prairie Fire in the game.
“Our threes weren’t falling, so we emphasized spacing and trying to get to the basket,” Cline said.
It’s one thing to emphasize something in the huddle but it takes more to translate it onto the floor. Against the Pioneers, the Prairie Fire were finally able to capitalize on a dribble drive game that had been held in check in the previous two games.
“Against some of the tougher teams in the conference we had a hard time driving to the basket,” Marver said. “Tonight was different.”
Marver made six trips to the free throw line in the second half, finishing 11-12 at the stripe for the game. She had 19 points oveall.
But it was the efforts of another Prairie Fire player that got Knox off on the right foot.
Freshman Jamie Blue notched 14 points in the first half, including a perfect three for three from three-point range, winding up with a career-high 21 points by the end of the game.
“[Blue] was awesome, really gave us a spark in both halves,” Cline said. “That’s the best I’ve seen her play.”
Marver explained that the breakout performance was indicative of Blue’s energy on the court.
“Jamie hustles all the time, she goes after it on offensive rebounds,” Marver said. “She’s very good at finishing at the basket too.”
Senior Grace Theisen and freshman Molly Lascelles joined Blue and Marver in double digits, and Marver believes spreading the wealth is Knox’s best chance at success.
“Playing as a team got us ahead in the game. When we played well, it was because we were looking for each other, making good passes,” Marver said.
Knox (5-13, 3-10 MWC) currently sits within a stretch of three out of four games at home, with the one road contest coming at Monmouth next Tuesday.
“I think we have a stretch of competitive games coming up and if we are at our best, good things will happen,” Cline said.
The Prairie Fire take on Lake Forest on Saturday at 5 p.m. in Memorial Gymnasium.