Knapp Center records a Historical Turnout over Hometown Weekend
by KENDALL HUNT
Taking pride in being named Des Moines’ Hometown Team, Drake men’s and women’s basketball teams celebrated with a full weekend of games and sported commemorative jerseys paying homage to the city of Des Moines. The uniforms, designed by both Drake Athletics and Bozz Prints, showcased the city skyline and emphasized Drake’s commitment and pride in being named the Hometown Team of Des Moines. Following the theme, the cheerleaders, dance team, pep band, and fans sported the design along with the players to further build on the already elevated, bustling atmosphere in the Knapp Center.
The Lady Bulldogs opened the Hometown weekend against Valparaiso on Friday. Brenni Rose made the first basket of the night, putting the Bulldogs at an early lead. Valparaiso was quick to bounce back with high percentage shooting from the three-point range, claiming an 21-14 lead. Drake, however, regained some momentum down in the paint, with inside shots and rebounds from Sarah Rhine.
The momentum shifted back to Valpo again, though, with Drake’s consistent turnovers. Drake lost the ball seven times throughout the game, allowing the Crusaders to go up 25-20 at the end of the first quarter. Two free throws by Maddie Monahan with 0.6 seconds left helped close the lead some to 25-22 as the quarter concluded.
Maggie Negaard kicked off the second quarter by making the first basket, and the Lady Bulldog’s momentum didn’t stop, regaining the lead with shots by Sarah Beth Gueldner and Becca Hittner. The Crusaders were unable to maintain their shooting percentage as they only managed to make 1 out of 10 of their next three-point attempts. Taking advantage of fastbreaks and the inside court, Drake quickly diminished Valpo’s lead to finish the half with a score of 41-34.
In the final two quarters, freshman Sarah Beth Gueldner stepped up, knocking down a career-high 16 points and leading Drake to a 17-2 run. The Lady Bulldogs also put up a strong defensive front, forcing Valparaiso to pass around the ball until the last few seconds of the shot clock.
“I thought the players coming off our bench did a fantastic job. I thought it kept our momentum going, especially Sarah Beth,” said Coach Jennie Baranczyk.
Holding the lead throughout the fourth quarter, Drake clinched their 15th straight home victory (tied for fifth-best court streak in the nation) 87-66 over Valpo.
“Tonight was really fun because we really took being the Des Moines hometown team seriously,” said Baranczyk. “It’s really special for us to step out there and not just represent Drake women’s basketball or even just Drake University, but we got to represent Des Moines. This is home.”
Sara Rhine recorded 13 points in the game, bringing her career total to 2,001. She becomes the fifth Drake women’s player and the ninth player in Missouri Valley Conference history to reach the 2,000-point mark.
“It is surreal. I would not be able to do what I do without my teammates I am here with now and those that I played with the past four years,” said Rhine. “I don’t get to this point without them and I give them all the credit. I am so thankful to be able to reach 2000 points and be in this program.”
The men also played over the weekend and packed the Knapp Center with a season-high crowd of 4,030. The team fought hard against a strong offense, but eventually fell to the current second place MVC team of Southern Illinois.
Despite the roaring crowd and Drake’s 15 game winning streak at home, SIU was on fire and shot 65 percent from the three-point range. The team recorded 13 three-pointers, Marcus Domask leading with 28 points.
In the first half, SIU went on an impressive 14-0 run against Drake, knocking down three pointers consistently and concluding the first half with a significant 42-29 lead. Drake’s defense lacked, as the Salukis were able to move the ball around easily down low and out wide.
“They shot it well from three,” said Coach DeVries. “They had some players who really stepped up and made some big time shots. To be honest, we were fairly well guarded at times and ultimately that was probably the biggest difference in the outcome of the game, their ability to shoot it from three consistently over the course of the full forty minutes.”
The Bulldogs, however, backed by the crowd, did not give up and pulled out a 10-0 run and a 13-2 run in the second half. With a little over a minute left, Drake managed to bring the game within five points. Garrett Sturtz helped the run with a career-high 18 points and seven rebounds. Noah Thomas, as well, earned a season-high 13 points and contributed to the second-half comeback.
“The atmosphere in the Knapp center was really special in terms of the amount of people that came out to support the team, the energy that they brought into the building,” said DeVries. “I know it was a special occasion for us to have the uniform representing the city of Des Moines on them, and I know our guys were excited about that opportunity.”
The momentum swayed towards Drake in the final quarter, but the Bulldogs just couldn’t close the five-point gap as SIU was able to knock down a few last minute three-pointers and hold their lead. The nation’s ninth-longest home winning streak concluded with SIU’s 79-72 victory over Drake.
“We are looking forward to just getting back out there again. We have lost a couple in a row now so we are ready to be back at home,” said DeVries. “We know it’s an important home game for us against Bradley, a team that’s ahead of us in the standings. Overall, we just need to go out and play the full forty minutes and hopefully we will have another great turnout this Wednesday.”