By Daniel Herrick
The men’s basketball season kicked off their MIAA season last week with a loss at home against Albion followed a road victory at Olivet. The win over the Comets was capped by a three from senior Mark Ghafari with a near a minute remaining that put the Hornets in the driver’s seat the rest of the way.
A Ghafari-led victory is common for the Hornets who have started off the season just 6-7. He is currently tied for second in the nation for points per game with 27.7, an average that took a slight hit after a 17-point outing against Albion. Prior to that game, Ghafari was alone in second place at 28.7 ppg behind only Grinnell College guard Jack Taylor: whom some might remember from his 138-point game in November of 2012, or perhaps his mere 109-point display earlier this season.
Behind Ghafari and junior forward Adam Peters, who is averaging 17.2 ppg, this Hornets team can score. They entered this week tied for the MIAA lead in points per game with the Olivet Comets at 85.5 per, more than seven higher than the next closest team. Unfortunately, the Hornets and Comets are also far worse than the rest of the league on the defensive end. Kalamazoo is just behind Olivet in this department giving up 85.0 ppg versus the Comets’ 86.5.
Against Olivet on Saturday, these statistics showed. The Hornets needed 90 points to pull out a seven-point victory over Olivet. Ghafari’s 30 points were about par for the course for him, but perhaps more important was the 27 the Hornets received from Peters. Ghafari, rightfully so, has gotten a majority of the buzz this season, but Peters is quietly putting together a great year in his shadow.
The Hornets’ success moving forward will depend on strong performances from Peters, as well as the teams’ entire supporting cast. Thus far Peters has proven ready for the challenge. His 17.2 ppg are second in the MIAA behind only Ghafari. When team’s choose to double or triple team Ghafari, the Hornets are confident they can take advantage: “When Mark [Ghafari] does get defended well, we just need to find Adam [Peters] more and have the confidence to make plays on our own. Our offense is designed such that Mark isn’t the only option within our plays,” said senior Grant Carey.
And despite teams continuing to plan for him, Ghafari will continue to earn his points in a variety of ways. He understands that he will have to look to attack in new areas that aren’t as susceptible to potential double teams: “I have to take advantage of the opportunities I get in transition because the defense won’t be set,” said Ghafari. “Another thing that coach has me doing is trying to shoot some more pull-ups instead of driving into traffic when defenses are collapsing on me.”
The Hornets will play two MIAA games this week: at Trine on Tuesday night before hosting Calvin on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. As the Hornets continue on with MIAA play, their goal from the beginning of the season has not changed: “Our top goal from day one has been to become conference tournament champions and thereby receive an NCAA tournament berth,” said Carey.
No matter his personal successes, Ghafari echoed his teammate’s statement: “I don’t put much thought on personal accolades. The best accolade out there is having your team being number 1 at the end of the day. That’s the one I want.”