National Exposure

Dancin' in Branson
TJ — Player

Game 3

The 1:00 tipoff was the first game of the quarterfinals. Jordan Vogel easily wins it giving Dordt the initial possession.

 

Trevor Wolterstorff weaves his way through a sea of red and white to draw a foul on his shot.

 

After falling behind 18-8, Cliff Warner steps up to hit what will be his first of four consecutive three-pointers in a four-minute span.

 

Shortly after hitting his fourth trey, Cliff Warner picks up his second foul giving TJ an opportunity to man the point.

 

Shawn Keizer also subs in, providing an offensive spark that starts with a 3-pointer . . .

 

. . . and continues on the next possession with penetration and a clever bounce pass to Jordan Vogel on the baseline who throws it down with authority despite the foul.

 

The Vogel dunk and ensuing free throw gives Dordt its first lead of the game and generates a new level of confidence.

 

The players show an amplified measure of intensity following the old-fashioned three-point play.

 

Thanks to strong defense and clutch offensive plays, the Defenders close the half on a 13-4 run bringing positive energy to the locker room.

 

The players return from the dark hallways, set to go in the second half.

 

All eyes are on the high arching shot of Austin Katje. The shot falls, giving Dordt a six-point lead two minutes into the half.

 

A charging foul taken by Cliff Warner on McPherson's ensuing possession forces McPherson to call timeout.

 

Coach Hiemstra makes sure players are aware of their responsibilities on each end of the court.

 

Kyle Lindbergh drives the baseline and and looks to dish to the opposite block.

 

Trevor Wolterstorff torques his way through the lane, finishing with an up-around-and-under layup.

 

Chris Sievers earns another trip to the line by willing himself to the basket against a collapsing defense.

 

The sagging defense opens up the perimeter again.

 

Cliff Warner capitalizes by hitting his sixth three, giving Dordt a 72-67 lead with 4:31 remaining.

 

The coaches and players remind each other to not let up.

 

Dale cannot wait for the clock to tick down fast enough as things just start to unravel.

 

A third three-pointer in as many tries for McPherson has Dordt down by two with the ball and 14 seconds left.

 

Murphy's Law reaches a new level of frustration as Dordt's inbound pass is stolen and the Defenders are forced to foul with two seconds remaining. Any chance of a Defender salvage is put to rest as Chris Crawford, a 60% free throw shooter, makes them both to give the Bulldogs a four point victory.

 

Defender coaches and players leave the court shell-shocked. It is an unbelievable end to a game where Dordt played its best ball at nationals, the last two minutes withstanding.

 

TJ Malone wraps up his Dordt career on the most sour of notes. But Coach Douma has nothing but good things to say in the postgame interview. "TJ didn't know anything about Sioux Center or Dordt College and he trusted us and believed us when we told him we were going to be building a solid team. He is a great kid, he played some really good basketball down here and he sparked us with some hustle plays. I think he is a better young man for having been at Dordt and Dordt is a better place for having had him here." Well said, Coach. Well said.

 

Saturday Pregame

Dale Vander Berg once again greets people at the entrance to the third gathering sponsored by Peoples Bank. This time it was a pregame meal of sub sandwiches.

 

The fans started filing in for their food and fellowship well before the announced 11 a.m. start.

 

A few new faces showed up for the meal on Saturday, but the majority of them were there the day before.

 

Those who couldn't fit in the back room gathered in the front lobby at the entry.

 

Barb Mellema chats it up at the Keeter Gymnasium as an influx of black, white, and gold descended early.

 

Kyle Lindbergh is the last player to exit the locker room and make the jog to the court to warm up.

 

Twenty-five minutes before tipoff Mike Byker is set up to broadcast and looking much less stressed than he will be two hours from now.

 

Point guards TJ and Cliff Warner go through their regular one-on-one drills prior to the game.

 

An anxious Coach Douma does so well hiding his nerves that he appears uninterested.

 

Jordan Vogel waits for his name to be called during the announcement of the starters.

 

Friday Postgame Celebration

Dale Vander Berg again greets fans at the door on behalf of Peoples Bank.

 

Defender paraphernalia is on sale again. Barb and John Baas man the tables.

 

A single Northwestern College straggler is allowed inside only because his spouse is a Defender.

 

Deb Hulstein greets people inside the front door.

 

TJ Malone lends an ear to Provost Eric Hoekstra's congratulations.

 

More victories means there's more opportunity for merchandise sales.

 

Two more names are drawn for free t-shirts. President Zylstra relays his interaction with the president of the College of the Ozarks who said, "I didn't really care who won this tournament once we were out, but now that Dordt is paying to have celebrations at the Keeter Center with every game, we want you to win it all."

 

The Advancement Office team works on plans for another gathering on Monday, should one be needed. The details for an 11 a.m. Saturday pregame celebration are already squared away.

Game Two

Coach Hiemstra looks on as the jump ball initiates the first game of the second round.

 

Cliff Warner gets the zero off the scoreboard by nailing a three-pointer.

 

Austin Katje had his stroke working as several early threes splashed through against a center-heavy zone.

 

During Trevor Wolterstorff's first rest, Coach Hiemstra shares some quick tips.

 

Jordan Vogel earns several trips to the line on strong, contested inside play that seems to result in a torn apparel.

 

A deep three that surprises the defense has Austin Katje really zeroed in.

 

Midway through the first half, TJ Malone enters the game to give Cliff Warner his only breather all game.

 

In his four plus minutes TJ fills in admirably, garnering two steals, a rebound, and a point.

 

The two starting guards celebrate another three. Between the two of them, they would finish the game 10 for 20 in that department. The threes help offset 14 first-half turnovers, and the Defenders enter halftime with a 17 point cushion.

 

The regular five take the court to start the second half.

 

A cold start to the second half has the coaching staff looking for answers.

 

The comfortable lead quickly evaporates giving Dale and all Defender fans severe anxiety.

 

Coach Douma's preferred method for every timeout is a coach huddle followed by team instruction.

 

To help ease her own anxiety, Barb Mellema makes small talk with several people on the floor level during the last few minutes of the game.

 

After a thunderous Jordan Vogel dunk when victory seems nearly inevitable, the team wrangles themselves toward the sideline for a last timeout.

 

The final buzzer. A quick celebration. Then hand-shaking.

 

A jaunt to the locker room allows for some loud celebrating to begin.

 

Friday Pregame

After a breakfast next door to the hotel at Denny's, the team boards the bus around 7:20 to leave for their game.

 

An 8:30 a.m. game means different routines for everyone. But the Defender faithful arrive early and in large numbers, showing no signs of morning sluggishness.

 

The atmosphere is giddy, but that always seems to describe Dave Eekhoff. His old hat still fits like a glove.

 

Curtis Van Grouw and friends recreate "Timeouts with Coach Douma and Players." Ross catches them in the act; he can only smile and shake his head.

 

Warm ups have a different feel at 8:00 in the morning, but the players appear fresh and focused.

 

An estimated 500 Dordt fans show up to fill a majority of both sides of the bottom sections of seats.

 

Golf Coach Mark Christians arrives, with his players scattered through the stands as well. A month and half ago it was time for him to plan his team's annual spring break trip. Liking his odds of the basketball team making it to nationals, he schedules his golf team's excursion to coincide. After the game, the golf team plays at the Payne Stewart Golf Club, named the best course in Missouri for 2012 by Golfweek.

 

Trevor Wolterstorff assumes position in the middle of the huddle to give some last motivational words.

 

While the starters huddle just prior to tip off, the crowd is led by the students' cross-court "I-THINK-THAT-WE-WILL-WIN" chant.

 

Thursday Night

After supper on Thursday, the Defenders come to the Keeter Gymnasium to watch the Briar Cliff game.

 

TJ takes a seat in the top row to give himself a backrest. I ask them if they care who wins this game. They say they're going for Briar Cliff. Sophomore James Rylaarsdam adds, "I have them winning this in my bracket I filled out." Who wins it all, I ask. "Dordt, of course."

 

Coach Hiemstra is continually bouncing strategies off of others. He and Coach Keizer decide the team should probably leave at halftime of this game since it's running nearly an hour behind schedule.

 

At halftime the team does leave for the hotel, a 15 minute drive from the gym. Sleep will be hard to come by for many of the players. Trevor Wolterstorff can only relax himself enough to get one and half hours of sleep.

 

A few dozen Dordt fans--including Dale--show their conference allegiance and stay for the entire game, helping cheer Briar Cliff to victory.

 

Postgame Celebration and Meal

A reception following the game was held in the Silver Dollar City Parlor of the Keeter Center on campus. Sponsored by the Dordt College Advancement Office and Peoples Bank, guests were encouraged to sign up for drawings for free t-shirts and an iPad. An event is planned for the same location following Friday morning's game.

 

Barb helps sell and give away merchandise for the Dordt College Bookstore, Advancement Office, and Defender Gold Club.

 

Dale greets fans, players, and coaches at the door.

 

Coach Hiemstra brings up some news regarding his business. Dale lends an ear but Kyle wraps it up saying, "We're here now. We'll worry about it when we get back."

 

The crowd nearly doubles the initial anticipated number. But the generous staff at the Keeter Center makes accommodations.

 

Wes Fopma thanks the fans for coming out, Peoples Bank for sponsoring the event, and Coach Douma and the team for winning.

 

Three players from the 1959-60 Dordt team are present at the event. Ironically, all three make their home in Springfield, Missouri, about 40 miles from Branson. From left to right, they are: Forrest Vanden Ende, Tom Den Ouden, and Syne Altena.

 

President Zylstra arrives from Des Moines just after the final buzzer. He says a few words of congratulations and encouragement and adds, "Since Peoples Bank is paying for receptions after every game, we'll plan to be here until they run out of money." Wes Fopma took the mike joking, "That's not going to happen."

 

Coach Douma uses his time at the mike to thank the fans for providing an awesome supportive atmosphere. "It's this type of environment," he says, "that speaks volumes to the students we're trying to recruit."

 

Many players ate and hung out with their parents during the reception. TJ convinced his mom (in gold shirt) to buy him a new t-shirt.

The First Game

Benchside, Hiemstra takes to his usual stance--notebook on lap and leaning on knees.

 

At the first timeout, TJ is all ears as Coach Douma delivers his instructions.

 

A charge taken by Jordan Vogel has the team fired up and quickly helping him up.

 

An alley-oop dunk by Kyle Lindbergh at the 3:06 mark of the half gets the strong Defender crowd jacked up.

 

The "voice of the Defenders," Mike Byker, gives a summary of the first half of play.

 

The Defenders get off to a slow start in the second half, allowing the opposing team to get right back in it. During a timeout, in a tone that expresses both encouragement and frustration, TJ yells out, "Come on!"

 

Barb Mellema's intense face reveals every bounce of the ball on the rim as the game really tightens during the last few minutes.

 

The coaching staff looks to make sure the defense is set after a dramatic offensive possession.

 

TJ offers some tips to Shawn Keizer as soon as he sits down.

 

Until a big three from Cliff Warner goes down and some ensuing free throw are drained, the Defender faithful cannot watch easily.

 

Survive and move on. That's the mantra for the tournament. The Defenders commit three times as many turnovers as Cal Maritime, but move on. A win is a win, and after the team made it back to the locker room, cheers of celebration echoed down the hallway.

Pregame

The team waits in the dark hallways west of the gym for the game before theirs to finish.

 

Trevor Wolterstorff is zoned in before the game. Each player handles his jitters differently. Chris Sievers prefers to keep it loose; he gets a kick out of watching the TV airing the game from the hallway for whenever Trevor enters and exits the gym.

 

Dale Vander Berg claims his seat long before Dordt tips off. He convinced his brother (left) to travel down from Wisconsin to take in the Dordt game(s). It's a close game between Indiana Wesleyan and Warner Pacific. I tell Dale it's going overtime. He says, "Don't say so." It does.

 

An overtime session in the game before theirs mean longer waiting for everyone. Coach Hiemstra jokes around with the fans waiting. Coach Douma (background) is propping himself up with a garbage can.

 

The Team’s Morning

The team took advantage of the continental breakfast at the hotel around 8. TJ innocently asked if they'd be able to wear polo shirts to the evening's festivities. Coach Hiemstra immediately followed rhetorically, "Have we ever worn polos before?" Chris Sievers had to chime in jokingly, "Come on, Terrence."

 

The team sat down in the upper section to watch Northwestern kick off the tournament with their matchup.

 

Even the players had to obey the seating restrictions; they were soon displaced by a small army of school children.

 

Coach Hiemstra took a few minutes to sit down and joke with Northwest Iowa fans during the Red Raider game.

 

Send Off

Dr. Zylstra addresses the team and fans who have gathered to wish them the best.

 

Dr. Zylstra addresses the team and fans who have gathered to wish them the best.

 

TJ Malone takes in some last advice before hopping on the bus.

 

Coach Douma thanks the fans and institution for their support during the season.

 

No personal attendants here: the players pack and load their own gear.

 

Coach Hiemstra loads his stuff. After a stop at Creighton for a midday practice, the bus continues onto Branson.