Successful regular seasons for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams gave the Maple Leafs momentum heading into the conference tournament last week. The teams hope their recent success will lead to at-large invitations to their respective national tournaments as well.The women finished the regular season with a record of 23-7, going 15-3 and earning second place in the Crossroads League. The season wrapped up with a tough win on the road on Saturday, February 20 over third-ranked Marian University by a score of 73-60.
The men also hosted the Knights back in Gunden Gymnasium, and after 40 minutes of play the score was knotted up at 62-62. Once in overtime, Goshen found a way to get the job done, winning the game 75-73, and wrapped up the regular season with a record of 18-12, including 10-8 and in fourth place in the league.
With finishes on the top four, both teams earned the right to host Crossroads League quarterfinal contests. The women’s tournament started on Tuesday, February 23, with the 15th-ranked Maple Leafs hosting Huntington University. The Foresters gave Goshen problems in both regular season contests, with each team eventually winning on their home courts, but the Maple Leafs left no doubt this time around, confidently winning the quarterfinal 85-69 and advancing to the semifinals. Gabby Williams, a junior, led the Leafs with 22 points and Tyra Carver, a senior, led with nine rebounds.
Two nights later, the men tipped off their tournament, hosting Grace College. In the first 20 minutes of action, Goshen sprang out to an early 22-9 lead, only to see the visitors find their stride and claim a 44-39 lead at the break. Trevor Commissaris, a senior, led the Leafs with 11 first-half points. Grace continued their lead through the entire second half, as Goshen slowly whittled down the lead until Dominique Bolden, a senior, converted on a two-point bucket with 20 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 78. The game was still tied 20 seconds later, so the teams headed to overtime.
The extra time was just enough for Devin Heath-Granger and Christian Grider, both sophomores, to focus in and lead the Maple Leafs, as the pair combined for 13 of the team’s 14 overtime points, including a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line. This helped secure Goshen’s second consecutive overtime victory, this time 92-85. Bolden finished with 22 points to lead the Leafs, followed by Heath-Granger with 20 points, Commissaris with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Grider with 16 points for the game.
The women tipped off the next contest on Friday evening, once again in Gunden Gymnasium, against 19th-ranked Indiana Wesleyan in the Crossroads League semifinals. The Wildcats came out hot and had an 11-2 lead just over five minutes into the first quarter. Goshen then started hitting some shots, and at the end of the first quarter the score read 18-15 in favor of Indiana Wesleyan. The second stanza remained close, and Goshen went into the half up 37-36. Liz Tecca, a senior, scored all of her 10 points in the first 20 minutes of action, and Lynnia Noel, a junior, added 10 of her 12 points by the break as well.
The third quarter saw continued close action between the teams, with the Wildcats taking a slight lead into the third and final break, 47-45. In the fourth, the game stayed tight, with Indiana Wesleyan scoring five consecutive points in the last 30 seconds to take a 61-59 lead. Goshen had a layup chance as the buzzer expired, but the ball fell on the wrong side of the rim and the Wildcats left the court victors. Carver led the Maple Leafs with 16 points.
The men entered their semifinal game on Saturday hoping for a better outcome, as they traveled to Fort Wayne to battle against 2nd-ranked St. Francis. The first half never produced a lead bigger than six points for either team, and at the midgame break the scoreboard read 35-35. Kevin Phillips, a junior, led the Leafs into the locker room with nine points.
The second half opened with a Cougar bucket and St. Francis would maintain and grow that lead up to 10 by the 12:37 mark, but Goshen’s persistence brought the game back to one-possession, and the teams traded leads with just over two minutes remaining. With 19 seconds left, St. Francis took another two-point lead, 77-75, and this time the Maple Leafs had no response, and free throws pushed the final score to 80-76 for the Cougars.
The teams’ last chances were the national tournaments, whose selection shows took place on Wednesday after print deadline. Should they make their respective tournaments, the women will head to Sioux City, Iowa, while the men will travel to Point Lookout, Missouri. Those tournaments begin next week, with opening round games on both Wednesday and Thursday.