Thomas Three-Ball Lifts Calvin Women’s Basketball Team To MIAA Tournament Title
Saturday, February 26, 2011
By Sports Information Student Assistant Derek Neice
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -In a thrilling game that literally went down to the final shot at the buzzer, the Calvin Knights stole away the MIAA conference championship Saturday afternoon against rival Hope on a three point shot as time expired, winning by a score of 67-65.
Leading significantly by 20 points early on in the second half, the Knights lost a lot of that built up momentum as time wound on and the Dutch slowly but surely climbed back into the game. After a go-ahead score by Hope with 9 seconds to play, junior Jill Thomas (Grand Rapids, MI) got open and hit the winning shot as the clock ran out.
“We’re not going to face a better team,” Calvin coach John Ross said in the postgame press conference. “It gives us a lot of confidence for next week.”
The Knights shot 48.9 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-point range in the game and were led by sophomore Carissa Verkaik (Holland, MI), who scored a stellar 29 points on 10 of 14 shooting with an additional 8 rebounds and 5 blocks. Thomas scored 11 points for Calvin, with 9 of those coming from beyond the arc on 3 of 4 shooting from three-point range. Junior Courtney Kurncz (St. Johns, MI), who hit a big three to give the Knights a narrow lead in the waning moments of the game and who assisted Thomas on the winning shot, also put out a great all-around effort with 12 points, 6 boards, 5 assists, and 4 steals.
As a team, the Knights outrebounded the Dutch 35-35 and were a very solid 14 of 16 from the free throw line.
Hope was led by senior Carrie Snikkers (Jenison, MI) with 22 points and 5 rebounds and sophomore Meredith Kussmaul (Hartland, MI) off the bench with 14 points and 4 rebounds.
“It was a game of high emotions and low emotions,” Thomas said. “It was about staying positive and staying together, that was our main focus. With the personnel we have this year, to be able to come together and pull off a game like that is huge.”
Verkaik added, “With Jill we all know she can shoot it and when we give her the ball she’s going to take care of it.”
In the first half both teams played great defense and held each other to a very limited amount of offensive opportunities. With Hope leading 15-13 at 7 minutes left in the first half, Calvin then swung the pendulum towards the Knights in a big way by going on a huge 14-0 run leading up to the break.
In the second frame Calvin got right back to business with a big 13-2 run to open the half, including three makes from beyond the arc. Leading 45-25 with over 17 minutes to play, the Dutch then began their methodical comeback, starting with a big 14-2 run that brought them within 10 points.
Thereafter the Dutch used an additional 15-5 run to knot things up at 54-54. With just over five minutes left, each possession became more and more critical to both teams as they tried to gain momentum back again.
Hope took the lead 60-59 with three-and-a-half minutes to go on a jumper by sophomore Liz Ellis (Grand Rapids, MI), and the Dutch led again 63-61 when Kurncz hit her big three to retake the lead with barely over a minute to go.
A turnover on Hope’s subsequent possession gave the Knights the ball with a mere 11 second to play, but Kurncz couldn’t find anyone on the inbound pass from the baseline and the Dutch regained possession. A smooth pass and lay-in by senior Erika Bruinsma (Grand Rapids, MI) gave Hope the lead again 65-64 with only 9 seconds to go. Thomas then took things into her own hands in the next seconds and the Knights took down the reigning MIAA Tournament champions.
“I think it gives us more confidence and it makes us believe in ourselves more,” Verkaik said. “Hope is a good team and we all know it, and so for to come here and beat them again on our home court proves to us again that we can play.”
In taking the loss, Hope coach Brian Morehouse said it well for his team after the game. “We all have disappointment in our lives, and how you handle it is what develops your character.”
The win pushes Calvin to 24-4 on the year and drops Hope to 26-2, marking the second time this year the Knights have defeated Hope at home in the Van Noord Arena, giving Calvin the edge on the season series over the third ranked team in the nation. Also significant is that the Knights now gain the automatic bid to the NCAA III Tournament over Hope.