Women’s Basketball Captures Outright MIAA Regular Season Title & Top Seed for MIAA Tourney
Thursday, February 16, 2012
By Mark DeHaan
Calvin College was able to send its seniors off with the outright MIAA regular season championship as the Knights defeated the Saint Mary’s College Belles 73-52 in their final home game of the regular season on Wednesday night. Playing in pink, breast cancer awareness jerseys, Calvin was able to fend off a pesky Belles team on Senior Night.
Senior Courtney Kurncz scored the first five points for the Knights to give Calvin the early 5-0 lead. Playing strong defense and forcing Calvin into a number of early turnovers, the Belles would not go away as they cut the deficit to one at 11-10 with ten minutes remaining.
Junior Carissa Verkaik, eight points away from moving into second on the Calvin career scoring list, did not score her first points of the night until 5:49 left in the opening half as Calvin pushed its lead to 19-14.
A 6-0 run by Saint Mary’s gave the Belles their first lead of the night at 20-19, but an 8-0 response by the Knights closed out the half as Calvin grabbed the advantage, 27-20. Calvin shot 2-for-13 from three-point range in the first half while committing eight turnovers to a stingy Belles defense, allowing Saint Mary’s to stay in the contest.
Out of the break, Calvin opened up a 36-22 lead, capped by a Verkaik layup that put her at 1,551 points in her career, moving her past Marcia Harris and into second on the career scoring list.
Minutes later, a pair of layups by Saint Mary’s junior Jessica Centa cut Calvin’s lead to 39-33 with just over ten minutes remaining.
Over the next three minutes, six points and three steals by freshman Kayla Engelhard fueled a 14-0 run that put the game out of reach for the Belles as Calvin pushed its lead to 53-33.
With a minute remaining and up 71-49, Calvin Head Coach John Ross subbed out his three seniors to a standing ovation by the Calvin crowd.
The clock then ran down as the Knights held the 73-52 advantage to earn the victory and the outright MIAA regular season championship.
“We’ve worked really hard all year, and the last few years, especially with this senior group. To win it on senior night, to pull them out all at the end – from where we were three years to just be at this point – it’s an awesome feeling,” said Ross. “I’m so happy for Leah, and Court, and Jill – it’s just been a great ride and we want to keep it going.”
Leading Calvin on offense was Verkaik, who scored 21 points and added 14 rebounds, five blocks, and five assists. Kurncz scored ten points and added four rebounds, four steals, and three assists for a solid senior night performance. Also scoring ten points for the Knights was junior Julia Hilbrands and Engelhard.
The Belles were led on offense by senior Kelley Murphy who scored 12 and added five boards. Senior Patsy Mahoney chipped in 11 while senior Maggie Ronan added ten for Saint Mary’s.
“They played us extremely tough in the first half, I thought we did a good job defensively, but they really shut us down offensively – we just picked up the intensity in the second half. Saint Mary’s is really good, they have a lot of seniors, and we’re going to have to be ready to play next Thursday,” said Ross. “Hopefully we’ll use the break that we have to our advantage and get people a little more fresh for the final week.”
The Calvin victory sets up a rematch with Saint Mary’s in the first round of MIAA Tournament as Calvin claimed the top seed and Saint Mary’s holds the fourth seed. That game will take place next week Thursday, and is the next game on Calvin’s schedule. Hope is the second seed in the MIAA Tournament while Albion is the third seed.