By Mark DeHaan
OLIVET - The Calvin men's basketball team traveled to Olivet on Wednesday evening with an opportunity to claim the regular season MIAA title outright.
The Knights were also looking to complete a season sweep of the Comets. Calvin defeated Olivet earlier this season at Van Noord Arena, 75-49.
With an 87-74 win, the Knights did both. Calvin saw a 25-point second-half lead cut down to as little as four. But, a 9-2 run and three empty Olivet possessions allowed the Knights to reestablish a double-digit and hold on to claim the 87-74 victory.
The Comets came out playing strong defensively, although they could not stop senior Jordan Brink. Brink scored six of Calvin's opening 11 points as the ball game was tied at 11-11 five minutes in.
A pair of quick baskets then gave Olivet its largest lead of the first half at 16-11.
On a three-pointer by Brink, the Knights took the lead at 20-18.
After a Comets layup tied the game at 20-20 with 8:07 remaining, Calvin found its shooting touch.
Brink made back-to-back threes to give the Knights a 31-22 advantage.
Sophomore Cam Denney and senior TJ Huizenga then teamed-up to score the final 16 points of the first half, with Denney scoring 12. The Knights outscored Olivet 16-8 in that span as Calvin took a 47-30 lead into halftime.
The Knights shot 55.6% in the first half while Olivet shot 50%. Brink scored 17 points and Denney had 12. For the Comets, Kevin Woodson scored 11.
Out of the break, the Knights scored the first eight points to see their largest lead of the ball game at 55-30.
With Calvin holding a 57-32 edge with 15:37 to go, Olivet began to fight its way back into the ball game.
In a four-minute window, the Comets hit five three-pointers in a row to chisel the Knights lead down to 63-51.
With 8:48 remaining, Calvin's lead was cut down to single-digits as guard Jake Zielinski sunk a pair of free-throws to bring Olivet's deficit to 64-56.
Another triple by the Comets with 5:12 to go brought Olivet within four at 69-65.
Forced to respond, the Knights went on a 9-2 run, capped by a three-pointer from junior Austin Parks, to retake a double-digit lead at 78-67 with less than three minutes to go.
The Comets got the game back to single-digits one more time before the Knights pulled away, hitting 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch to claim an 87-74 win.
Calvin finished the game at 54.1% shooting, including 8-of-14 for 57.1% from three-point range. Olivet finished at an even 50%. The Knights out-rebounded the Comets 35-24.
Individually, Calvin was paced by Brink who had 23 points and six rebounds. Denney finished with 14 points while Parks, junior Jordan Daley, and senior Tyler Dykstra each contributed 11. Daley also added six boards.
For Olivet, Woodson finished with 16 points. Guard Aaron Washington finished with 15 points on 5-of-7 three-point shooting while Zielinski chipped in 13 points.
"Those are the kind of games that make you sweat for a couple days before. We wrapped up the top seed for the MIAA Tournament last Saturday night, and you wonder if your team will come out flat the next game," said head coach Kevin Vande Streek. "Our first half run was more of Cam Denney and Jordan Brink making shots than us stepping up on defense."
Calvin improves to 18-6 overall and 11-2 in the MIAA, claiming the MIAA regular season title outright with the win as Trine and Hope both sit two games back with one game to go. Olivet falls to 4-20 and 2-11 in league play.
The Knights now look forward to Saturday when they will close out the regular season at Albion. The Knights and Britons are scheduled to tip-off at 3:00 p.m.