Women’s basketball loses to Hope in final seconds of MIAA tourney finals
Hope women’s basketball team came out on top of a closely fought game Saturday afternoon, winning the MIAA tournament championship game 62-59, and gaining an automatic bid to the NCAA D-III tournament.
During the final seconds of the game, Calvin’s Kayla Engelhard missed a three-pointer that would have sent the game to overtime.
The teams were evenly-matched coming into the game, with Calvin ranked No. 3 (23-3), and Hope ranked No. 2 (26-1).
The defeat marks the Knights’ first loss of the season in the Van Noord Arena.
Calvin women’s basketball head coach John Ross, who is coaching his 10th year for the Knights, said that it was a tough game throughout, with an unfortunate ending.
“Obviously we played a lot better than last Saturday,” said Ross. “I think if we could’ve done a better job of rebounding and had a higher shooting percentage…I thought we had some great looks, but they just didn’t go in.”
“They’re really good, and we’re really good, and it was a good battle before the NCAA championship,” he continued.
Ross has high hopes that the Calvin women are still going to be placed in the NCAA national tournament, despite the loss to Hope.
“I would think that we would be in it,” said Ross. “We’re looking forward to four more games 21 more days of playing with each other after today.”
As for the loss to Hope, Ross said it was difficult to take control of the game.
“It’s pretty tough,” said Ross. “They pressure you, and it’s really physical…things just didn’t work out for us.”
Calvin and Hope were neck-and-neck throughout much of the first half. With 4:40 left in the first half, Calvin went on a 9-0 run, leading 26-16 — the largest lead of the game.
With 30 seconds left in the first half, Calvin sophomore Kayla Engelhard walked off the court with an injured knee, which she recovered from, returning to play in the second half.
Just seconds before the end of the first half, Hope’s Maura McAfee intercepted a cross-court pass from Calvin’s Logan Marsh, scoring a buzzer beater layup on a fast break, and thinning Calvin’s lead to 30-28.
At halftime, Calvin led in rebounds (22-18), and also in turnovers (15-9). Calvin’s Carissa Verkaik led overall in scoring with 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 assist.
Five minutes into the second half, Hope regained the lead, 38-37, over the Knights. The game remained very close throughout the second half, and the last ten minutes of the game were neck-and-neck.
Carissa Verkaik led the Knights in scoring and rebounding. She finished the game with 13 rebounds and 24 points, half of which were from free throws. Verkaik was 12-16 from the free throw line. She said it was little breaks throughout the game that led to their defeat.
“I think it was just little things, just little breakdowns on defense where we didn’t box out,” Verkaik said.
Hope head coach Brian Morehouse was excited about the win and is confident in the team going into the NCAA tournament. He was glad that the game was close and lived up to the exciting Calvin-Hope rivalry expectations.
“It was an awesome game with two great teams,” said Morehouse. “You know, oftentimes your championship or rivalry game doesn’t live up to the billing, but I thought this game lived up to the billing, and then some.
“Today I thought both teams played with incredible effort,” he continued. “It was just a back-and-forth battle…I thought we did a really nice job on the defensive end.”
The game was close throughout, and it came down to the last few minutes, Morehouse said.
“Today I thought we won the game in the last five minutes,” he said. “The last thing I said leaving the half was, we have to finish the game like we finished the half — with a flurry. We have to make sure we’re finishing strong at the end, not weakly. I thought we finished well…we withstood their run at the end, which was huge.”
Hope senior Courtney Kust had a career high with 29 points. She was 6-7 from the free throw line, and 3-6 for three-pointers.
“It was all our offense,” Kust said. “Shots fell for me, we set good screens. I can’t take all the credit…we had a game plan, and we executed on the offensive end.”
Hope coach Morehouse said it has been great playing against Calvin throughout the season, and thinks that both teams have made each other better, which is what good rivalries do.
“They [Calvin] are a class program,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m going to get a chance to coach against Calvin again this year, but Coach Ross and this team have a lot of class, and it’s been a pleasure competing against Ross, Verkaik, that whole group of seniors…they’ve made us better, and I think we’ve made them better, and that’s what rivalries are supposed to do.”