GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Calvin men's basketball team picked up a key conference victory on Wednesday evening, defeating Alma 70-67.
With the win, Calvin improves to 8-12 on the year with a 4-5 conference mark for a three-way tie for fifth place in the standings. Alma falls to 7-13 overall, also with a 4-5 MIAA record. Alma was picked to finish second in the MIAA preseason coaches' poll, while Calvin was picked to finish third. In the first matchup of the season between the two teams, the Knights claimed an 80-63 road victory.
"It was not easy and nothing went really smooth, but we just grinded and grinded. We made a couple plays at the end of the game, which is something that we've struggled with this year," said Calvin head men's basketball coach Kevin Vande Streek. "We made a couple stops, a couple free throws and good plays down the stretch."
The Knights jumped out to a 7-3 lead as junior Austin Bykerk (Jenison, Mich./Unity Christian) scored a quick four points. Just under five minutes into the game, the Scots went on a 4-0 run to take a 10-9 lead.
Back-to-back buckets by senior Michael Wilks (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian) and junior Jason Walter (Coloma, Mich./Coloma) regained the lead for the Knights. As the midpoint of the half approached, the Scots pushed back to go up by one once again.
Calvin's offense found its groove as the Knights responded with a ten straight points to take a nine-point lead. Junior Carlos Amoros-Gutierrez (Wyoming, Mich./Wyoming) and sophomore Derrick DeVries (Grand Rapids, Mich./Covenant Christian) hit three-pointers in the run, while Bykerk and Tom Morrison (Bristol, Ind./Northridge) also contributed points.
The Scots reduced the deficit to five points by way of free throws before the Knights staged a six-point run to lead 29-18 with just over four minutes remaining in the half.
Alma outscored Calvin 9-4 in the final minutes of the half, and the Knights headed into the break with a 33-27 advantage.
The Scots came out strong in the second half as their offense heated up. Just under four minutes into the second half, the Scots cut Calvin's lead to three points. DeVries responded with a triple to snap two-and-a-half minute Calvin scoreless spell.
Alma continued to roll, posting six straight points to go up 43-42 before a bucket by sophomore Alex Bos (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) broke up the momentum and earned back Calvin's narrow advantage.
The teams exchanged points until the score was knotted at 49 with 10:30 left to play. A jumper by freshman Luke Morrison (Bristol, Ind./Northridge) sparked a seven-point scoring surge. Bos followed by sinking another jump shot before Amoros-Gutierrez drained a triple to make the score 56-49 and force an Alma timeout with 8:20 remaining.
Out of the break, the Scots came within two points of the Knights on three separate occasions before tying the score at 60 with just under four minutes left on the clock. A free throw by DeVries broke the tie in favor of the home team before nearly two minutes of no scoring on either side.
With just under three minutes to go, an Alma bucket broke the dry spell and gave the Scots a 62-61 lead. A minute later, Walter scored in the paint to put the home team back on top, but another Alma bucket gave the visitors the advantage heading into the final minute of play.
DeVries capitalized on a key opportunity for the Knights, draining a triple with 58 seconds remaining to give Calvin a two-point lead. Following a timeout, the Scots had back-to-back three-point opportunities but failed to convert on either attempt. Wilks came up with a big rebound that led to a made free throw by senior Tony Canonie (South Haven, Mich./South Haven) on the other end of the court.
The Scots scored with 11 seconds to come within one point of the Knights, but it's the closest they would come to with their comeback effort. A pair of free throws by Canonie gave the Knights a three-point lead with nine seconds remaining and, after one point on each end, Calvin walked away with a hard-fought victory.
"That's a huge win for us. We knew that we have our back against the wall and we have to play our hardest every single game," said Canonie. "Every game matters and we pulled one out today and it's huge momentum for us heading into this Saturday."
DeVries posted a double-double, finishing with a team-high 19 points and 10 rebounds. Bykerk and Walter added 12 points apiece; Bykerk finished with seven rebounds while Walter contributed six assists and five boards. Bos finished with six points, six rebounds and four assists. Canonie and Amoros-Gutierrez also recorded six points apiece.
Calvin shot 43.8% from the field, including 41.2% from behind the three-point arc. Calvin outrebounded Alma 42-37 and scored 36 points in the paint compared to the Scots' 28.
The Knights are back in action on Saturday when they host rival Hope College (12-8, 6-3 MIAA). Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. at Van Noord Arena.