Grinnell men earn 1st trip to MWC Tournament since 2014-15 season

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GRINNELL, Iowa – The Grinnell College men's basketball seniors earned something Saturday for the first time in their careers – a trip to the Midwest Conference Tournament.
The Pioneers knocked off Monmouth College 107-94 Saturday at Darby Gymnasium to secure the team's first MWC Tournament berth since the 2014-15 season and 16th overall.
Grinnell improved to 13-2 in the league, their best conference mark in 56 years, while staying a half-game behind leader St. Norbert College. The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Fighting Scots as Grinnell moved to 17-4 overall, its best start to a season since 2012-13.
Jackson Qualley '22 came up big for Grinnell, hitting 5-of-8 shots from long range while scoring 20 points to go along with a career-high seven rebounds and four assists. Hannes Kogelnik '21 had 19 points, Vinny Curta'19 added 18 points and four assists, Zachary Stice '21 put in 12 points, Ky-Sean Johnson '19 had 11 and Tyler Grumhaus '21 10.
Kogelnik and Grumhaus each had two steals, as did Will Bebee '22 to go along with three blocks. Patrick Simms '22 added a career-high four assists and Christian Brookens '22 grabbed five rebounds.
The game was tight the entire first half, going back and forth before Grinnell went into the locker room with a 42-41 lead. Grinnell stretched its lead out to 10 early in the second period when Stice's 3-pointer made it 61-51.
But Monmouth fought back and was within two when Grinnell delivered a seven-point run on a 3-pointer and layup by Grumhaus and two free throws by Curta for a 76-67 lead.
Another run a bit later, this one an 8-2 spurt, turned a four-point cushion into a 10-point lead for Grinnell. Qualley and Stice had 3-pointers during the spurt and Curta a layup as Grinnell built an 84-74 cushion with 7:05 left.
Monmouth got as close as nine, but the Pioneers hung firm as they ran their winning streak to eight games. With the loss, Monmouth fell to 7-7 in the MWC and 9-12 in all games.
There was movement on Grinnell's career chart during the game. Curta is now fourth in career field goals with 486, Brad Geiman '21 and Bebee are ninth and 14th, respectively, in blocks with 87 and 38 and Johnson moved up to 13th in 3-point attempts with 647.
On the season chart, Curta ranks fourth in free throws with 180 and fifth in free throw attempts with 230. Geiman moved up to second in blocked shots with 60 and Bebee is 10th with 38.
The Pioneers are off until next Saturday when they play MWC leader St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis. Tip-off is slated for 3 p.m.