Kenya Earl’s last minute free throws sent the Vikings into overtime against Grinnell

This past weekend, the women’s basketball team traveled to Iowa to play against conference rival Grinnell College. Grinnell is typically a fierce team in terms of the conference ranks, but the Vikings showed that they could hold their own. I interviewed sophomore starter Kenya Earl, to get the inside scoop on the game.

A fun fact about Earl is that she is from Iowa. So, when the Vikings play at Grinnell she is only about an hour away from home. Her family came, and sometimes that can make all the difference. The pride and support that comes from family makes the determination even stronger.

It is hard, especially when considering the Vikings have a small roster of just eleven people, (without injuries), vs. playing a roster (like Grinnell’s) that have eighteen players. That means Grinnell has more subs, gets more breaks throughout the game, and therefore are less tired.

By the end of the game the score was tied, so they ended up having to go into overtime. Because this was a conference game, there had to be a winner, as conference standings are what determine playoff berths. In the end, the Vikings lost by nine points, 61-52, but their effort and perseverance should not go unnoticed.

Considering how it was a very close game, there of course had to be some positive aspects that came out of it. “We started the game off strong which is something that we have been struggling with and we got defensive stops when we needed to,” said Earl. “A big thing is, we didn’t let down when they would score a couple shots, we answered right back on the offensive end and kept fighting until the end. For me, I struggled to score, but found a way to get to the free throw line and help my team out there. I also pulled down rebounds to execute our defensive stops. To send us into overtime, I had to hit two free throws with zero seconds on the clock so that was probably the highlight of the game for me”. This goes to show that being able to remain calm and perform well under pressure is a game changer and something Earl has mastered, a hard task for any athlete to do.

Though the Vikings clearly performed well overall, there is a reason why they lost, and there are always places where teams can improve. Earl said, “I think we need to execute our plays on the offensive end better. By improving our offense that would put us in a better position in terms of leading our team towards success, by being able to possess more, leading us to score more frequently”. Earl brings up a good point. A team needs to score in order to win, but the caveat in that is a team cannot win if the other team scores more points. In other words, teams need to play good defense.

Coming from a defensive perspective, defending is just as important as offense, if not more important. It’s this idea that you need to have balance and perfect harmony.

I then proceeded to ask Earl how she motivated herself when they went into overtime. Earl said, “It was so exciting going into overtime and getting to play another 5 minutes to try to win. I definitely got a little tired at the end of regulation, but that didn’t out weight the fact that we got the chance to keeping fighting for a road win.” This just goes to show that there are not always going to be those inspirational talks or eureka moments that an athlete has to motivate themselves, but it can be found deep within someone.

I then asked Earl the following: If you could change something about that game, what would it be, or would you rather change nothing because since they won by so few, it could have been anyone’s game, just luck ran in their favor that day? She said, “Of course there were multiple opportunities to put us ahead and it would have been nice to get the road win, but I don’t think I would have changed anything. Despite foul trouble and some calls that didn’t go our way we showed a lot of grit the whole game and so much improvement and I’m so proud of us for that. This is setting us up for our upcoming games which we’re excited about”.

I asked the women’s head basketball coach Riley Woldt what he thought of the game and he responded by saying, “We go into every game with a lot of enthusiasm and an expectation to win. I believe in this team and we believe in each other. We faced a number of obstacles that could have really derailed us against Grinnell. Our team’s grit, perseverance and relentless effort put us in that tremendous situation to tie the game and send it into overtime. Kenya showed just how tough she is by her efforts in the waning moments and then to hit those two free throws with no time on the clock, no one standing on the free throw line and in that hostile environment was just amazing. And, even going down in overtime, our team gutted it out to have a shot at the end of overtime. We continue to improve and I am extremely proud of what they are doing! They are a lot of fun to watch!”

Though the Women’s basketball team didn’t come home with the “W,” they learned a great deal about perseverance, and were able to push themselves mentally and physically, which in turn will lead to their success in the future.