Anyone who has raised a young athlete knows that sports can involve more than the school program. Performing at the highest level in high school in any sport, frequently requires years of practice and competition beginning at an early age. Girls’ basketball is no exception. By eighth grade, high performers have typically been competing in non-school associated programs for more than three years. Grinnell has been fortunate to have a long-standing tradition of dedicated volunteer coaches organizing these programs and grooming our future high school stars.
Today, another travel basketball tournament comes to Grinnell. The Central Iowa Christian School organized its 18th annual winter event with 18 teams participating. Grinnell fielded six teams; one fourth-grade, one fifth-grade, two sixth-grade, one seventh-grade and one eighth-grade. Other teams included Pella, Newton, Regina and East Marshall. “It’s a great opportunity for our Grinnell players to participate in a competitive venue on their home turf,” says Chris Roudabush, tournament organizer and coach of the 5thgrade Grinnell Tigers.
The morning began with a double-winner when the 6th grade Grinnell Thundercats squeaked out a victory over the Regina Reginalds 19 -16 and the 8th grade Tigers stomped East Marshall 43 – 20. “Our girls have worked hard for several years and they are really coming together as a team,” said head coach of the 6thgrade Thundercats, Evan Petig. The 4th grade team coached by Leslie McKnight struggled early on and lost to the Pella Knights.
Next up, the 7th grade Tigers coached by Mike Doty faced the Des Moines Tarheels, while the 5th grade Tigers coached by Roudabush took on the Keokuk Chiefs. The 5th graders took an early lead and never looked back. Kaitlin Kriegel sunk 10 pts. to lead the team to a 37 -9 victory.
The 7th graders met a tougher battle. Having won most games with a double-digit margin; they finally met their match. Losing 14 – 8 at halftime was a new experience. “We started slow and didn’t really charge up until the second half,” said coach Doty. Jackie Criswell led the charge scoring 8 pts. and the team came back to win 23 – 18!
The 8th grade Tigers were back on the court to face the Iowa City Thunder. Feeling confident after a good start to the morning, the girls were in high spirits. “We’re ready!” said Bailee Kriegel. The Tigers dominated the entire game leading 18 – 6 at half. Sienna Durr and Kameron Moore were scoring machines each with a total of 12 and 8 pts. respectively. The Tigers trounced Iowa City 36 – 12.
The two Grinnell 6th grade teams faced off at the Grinnell Middle School. Classmate against classmate makes for a strong rivalry. The Intensity led over the Thundercats 16 -5 at half, and carried their lead to win 31 – 16.
At the 11:00 a.m. mark the Grinnell 7th graders took the court to face the Ottumwa Bulldogs. They held them to a shutout until 1:16 left in the game and clobbered the Bulldogs 36 -2. Jackie Criswell led again with 8 pts.
The inner-city rival continued with the 4th grade Tigers taking on the 5th grade Tigers. Kaitlyn Kriegel again inspired her team with 6 pts. and 3 free throws. The 5th graders won 21 – 7.
Going into the championship game, the Iowa Intensity looked unbeatable. And that they were. The 6thgrade Grinnell Intensity team won the championship by beating Iowa City Regina 33 -8.
The 6th grade Grinnell Thundercats returned to the recreation center for their final game against Newton. The Thundercats played tough holding the score to 20 – 1 at half, and defeating them 36 – 10. Abby Furness and Addy Petig each had 12 pts individually. The Thundercats finished the tournament in second place.
With a Grinnell team in the championship game in every age bracket, the day was poised to be a city-wide success. The 7th grade Tigers faced off Iowa City Regina. It was a tough defensive battle and the Tigers again had to fight their way through. Macey Harris and Megan Doty each had 8 pts to scrape out a victory 19 – 16. The 7th grade Tigers took first place!
The 5th grade Tigers stepped onto the court against the Pella Jr. Hoops. They dominated throughout the game and finished 31 – 18. The 5th graders also took first place!
Finally, the 8th grade Tigers took on the West Marshall Trojans. They fought a tough game fending off an aggressive offense as well as an overly rambunctious visiting crowd. The Tigers emerged successful led by Sienna Durr with 22 points. A 38 – 24 victory solidified their first place bid.
At the end of the tournament, a Grinnell team won every age division and re-enforced the idea that girls’ basketball will continue a tradition of success in our small town.