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  • Writer's pictureRoss O'Keefe

10 Reasons Why Olivet Nazarene Women Should Be Proud

If you want a peek at an exciting NAIA college basketball team, a visit to Illinois might be in order.

 

Sitting about an hour’s drive away from Chicago, Olivet Nazarene women’s basketball has lit up scoreboards, broken records, and had immense success in the NAIA’s Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, with ten 20-win seasons in the last 11 years (that 11th year was an 18-4 record in a shortened season due to COVID-19), plus nine trips to NAIA national tourneys in that time.

 

This season though, the Tigers hit a snag and fell short of qualifying for the NAIA National Tournament despite a 20-9 overall record, one of just eight teams in the NAIA with 20-plus wins to not make the 64-team field. But read on to discover why Olivet Nazarene was a team worth watching anyways.

 

1. One Crazy Offense

Fast-paced, multi-faceted and dynamic, Olivet Nazarene’s women’s basketball scheme raises eyebrows. It’s based on the Grinnell system, named after the NCAA Division III college that first used it, which normalizes three-pointers, full-court presses, and mass substitutions.

Yahoo! Sports’ Jay Hart best described the offense as adhering to these principles:

  • The first shot is the best shot, no matter if it’s from five feet or 25 feet, preferably 25 feet

  • Take as many three-pointers as possible

  • Defensively, giving up an uncontested layup is better than forcing a shot-clock violation

  • The ball-handler is double-teamed at all times

Olivet Nazarene coach Lauren Glenn implemented the offense because of her predecessor, Doug Porter, who left the Tigers in 2012 and was most recently head coach at Bethel (Ind.) University.

 

Glenn’s explanation of the scheme hammers home the point well enough that a five-year-old could comprehend it.

 

“The whole premise is that we’re trying to get more shots than our opponent,” Glenn said.

 

2. Olivet Nazarene has been a regular NAIA contender

The Tigers have never reached an NAIA national championship game, but they have been a consistent contender for over a decade. Before it ended this year, Olivet Nazarene had a string of seven straight NAIA tourney appearances and had made NAIA postseason 12 times in the last 13 years. The Tigers won at least one game four of those times, including a national quarterfinal appearance in the 2016 NAIA Division II Tournament. This season included a three-way tie for third in the CCAC and wins in 15 of their last 18 games before falling in the CCAC Tournament semifinals. While it didn’t translate into a national tourney berth for the Tigers, their explosive offensive system has produced plenty of consistent success, which means that Olivet Nazarene will likely be back soon.

 

3. Caroline Boehne was one of the best players in the CCAC

Senior forward Boehne won CCAC Player of the Week in late January for a pair of double-double performances, and led the Tigers in scoring with 15.5 points per game. The 5-10 Boehne is also among the leaders in the conference in scoring, and was far and away the conference leader in points per 40 minutes with 32.7.

 

A significant part of Boehne’s breakout season was her addition of a three-point shot to her offensive repertoire. After two seasons of standard post play, she became the Tigers’ top offensive weapon with a three-point mark near 40%.

 

4. Glenn and her squad take pride in their faith

There’s something admirable about a team that plays for something much larger than themselves, regardless of whether faith is an integral part of an observer’s life.

 

“We Believe. You Belong Here,” graces Olivet Nazarene’s website on first look, a clear wordplay on the school’s Christian faith mingled with an admissions pitch. It skews ironic, sure, but Glenn and her squad embrace their faith and it is an important part of their team.

 

“Doing [everything] well, treating your teammates well, grounding what we’re doing in our faith and being able to demonstrate that on a daily basis in how we play and what we’re doing, that’s of utmost lasting importance to us,” Glenn said.

 

Boehne agrees.

 

“Since we’re a Christian school, we’re blessed to be able to do Bible studies and talk about our faith,” Boehne said. “That being said, I think way more than basketball, I’ve just really grown as a person and I’m just so much more confident in myself now.”

 

5. Olivet Nazarene’s colors and mascot resemble LSU’s

No beating around anything here: the Olivet Nazarene Tigers have a striking resemblance to the LSU Tigers.

 

The purple-and-gold combination runs strong through both programs and Olivet Nazarene even uses a similarly colored tiger. White is used a bit more prominently with Olivet Nazarene than at LSU, but the purple and gold still bears a noticeable resemblance.

 

Purple and gold is a classic combination though, and with both teams in different athletic associations entirely, Olivet Nazarene might save some originality points. The Tigers do sometimes refer to their basketball programs as “Tigerball,” and that actually sounds awesome.

 

6. Glenn’s scheme lends itself to team-wide contributors

No player can hide on the bench long in Glenn’s scheme. The Grinnell system makes certain of that.

 

Due to the lightning-quick style of the unique scheme, players must be switched out after just a few minutes of play in order to preserve tired legs, and replace them with rejuvenated ones.

 

“Subbing five-in, five-out hockey lineup changes, that is probably what makes us most unique and what makes us also most united as a team,” Glenn said.

 

The numbers scream that point loudly. Only three players averaged more than 20 minutes a game: guard Olivia Demosthenes, guard Jamie Finn and guard Maggie Cora. Boehne and guard Bett O’Neal averaged just under 20 to round out the starters.

 

There’s a wide pack after that. Eleven players averaged more than 10 minutes, and 15 averaged more than five.

 

Glenn is even hesitant to name an impact player on her team because the Tigers have so many contributors.

 

“We pride ourselves on it taking everybody to contribute, even though everybody’s not all on the court all the time,” Glenn said. “Every single one of them has contributed to the team culture…the culture of our program elevates the success of what you see in a record of wins and losses.”

 

Glenn’s scheme is irrefutably unselfish.

 

7. Olivet Nazarene is familiar with breaking records

Glenn’s unique scheme has lended itself to garnering numerous records in NAIA basketball.

 

Back in 2019, the Tigers made 36 three-pointers in one game, scoring 157 points in the process. The performance set the record for most made three-pointers by one team in the NAIA, and came close to breaking a scoring record.

 

This season, Olivet Nazarene leads the NAIA in three-point makes and attempts along with ranking second in points per game. The Tigers even scored 130 points against Trinity Christian, no small mark. Guard Olivia Dirkse led Olivet Nazarene with 22 points off the bench in the match.

 

It seems like the Tigers are just waiting for the next opportunity to catch fire, and assault the record books once again.

 

8. Lauren Glenn has long ties with her school

A graduate of the University of Redlands in California, Glenn has mentored players at Olivet Nazarene since 2007, first as an assistant before taking over as head coach in 2012. She has over 200 wins as a head coach, and a career winning percentage above .650.

 

A former basketball player at her alma mater, Glenn has won an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Women’s College Coach of the Year award every year since 2016. She has had an immense amount of personal and coaching success at her college.

 

But Glenn’s scheme, the one she remains adamant on running for better or for worse, never looked to be something she expected to execute wherever she coached.

 

“I watched our men’s team play, I looked at it, and said ‘This is crazy, I would never do this,’” Glenn said.

 

“Never say never,” Glenn chuckled. One more example of life being enamored with irony.

 

9. Olivet Nazarene’s top contributors have likely heard their final buzzer

For the aforementioned Boehne and Cora, this season will likely be the swan song to their impactful careers at Olivet Nazarene. Both players rank in the top five on their team in scoring, and Cora recently crossed the 1,000 point mark at her school.

 

Cora led the team in attempts from the field per game, and led her team to victory against Saint Xavier on Senior Day with 20 points. Boehne followed her closely with 17 points.

  

10. The Tigers have been dominant on their home court

Most teams feed off their fan support and use that energy to fuel ideal play on the court. In Olivet Nazarene’s case, it's no different. Glenn’s squad has gone 21-5 the past two seasons at McHie Arena, a home court that supports 2,500 people and was built over 30 years ago.

 

The Tigers beat conference regular season and tournament champion Indiana South Bend 83-76 at home this season, handing them one of only two losses the Titans suffered during the regular season.


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