How do you sum up a season in a few paragraphs? How do you put on paper what players mean to and have meant to a program? It’s not easy and with sleep still elusive as the bus rolls on and with Billy Joel and Elton John keeping me company as we roll through the night here goes.
A couple of tough losses for the Defender basketball teams tonight. For the women the script had them beating Briar Cliff to avenge a loss they felt was stolen from them in early February. Briar Cliff deviated from the script and got out to a double digit lead and Dordt had to stray from the game plan, and, well, things got awfully tough with things snowballing from there. Points were hard to come from, Briar Cliff got easy baskets and the Dordt season came to a close at 19-13.
The men were slow in starting, getting lots of good shots early, but weren’t able to make them. I don’t think it was a matter of them being tight…maybe tired but not tight. Still down 23 with under 12 minutes left the Defenders proceeded to score 57 points in the remaining minutes, cutting the lead to four with a minute left and they made the Broncos sweat it, but the hill was too steep on Thursday and the Defenders fell 106-101. 76 points in the second half. As coach Douma said on the bus, “it would have been a great story if we’d won.” That sums it up. 76 points in a half is a new school record, by the way, breaking the old record of 69.
And now it’s done. A season that began with a road trip to North Dakota in early November ends with a pair of road trips to Briar Cliff and Hastings. And for six seniors, for the first time in four years of college basketball there is no practice tomorrow and nothing to work on and improve on basketball wise.
McKinzie Schmidt and Kate Du Mez will leave Dordt littering the record books with numbers that don’t do justice for what they’ve meant to the athletic program. Schmidt got as much out of her ability as any player I’ve been around. Not the highest jumper, nor the fastest runner, she made a lot of mid-range jumpers to get all the way to 1000 points. Ends with 900 career rebounds as well.
Kate Du Mez was as rare a player as I think I may ever see. Someone may come along to match her numbers in one sport or the other, but the combined two-sport excellence the Wisconsin native exhibited will live on for a long time in the memories of those who watched her. Beyond the numbers she was as fierce a competitor as I’ve seen and I truly mean it when I say she is a once in a decade type talent for our level. She was the kind of player you hated to face and the kind you love to have on your team. We may not know until next season how much those two players will be missed.
Near Christmas the men’s team was at a crossroads, and I doubt I was the only person who thought things might go south on the young team. Didn’t happen, and, according to coach Douma, that was due largely in part because the seniors refused to let that happen. Brett Heidema accepted a role as a player who logged a few minutes a game and didn’t get much in the way of points but he worked and made people better and took pressure off some younger players. Justin Van Kooten was the back up point guard and well, when you back up Michael Eekhoff, you aren’t going to get a bunch of minutes. Van Kooten was the player who worked as hard as anyone in the off season and got himself into good shape. He, more than anyone else, provided the vocal leadership this team needed when things weren’t going well.
Michael and Logan, Logan and Michael, they’ll be forever linked. As good a pair as we’ve had at Dordt. Durable, lots of points, lots of rebounds, lots of minutes and lots of thrills. Buzzer beaters and circus shots. I put them in that handful of players that people made a point of coming to see over their careers at Dordt because you didn’t know what they were going to do and you didn’t want to miss it when they did it. Logan could score and this year he pushed himself in ways that I would think he didn’t imagine were possible. He was better defensively and in Coach Douma’s words “He became our best practice player.” Michael? Well, I’ve said it so many times that I’m sure some people are sick of it, but I’ll say it again. When the ball was in his hands it was magic.
Seniors, as you leave your respective programs, thank you.