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Women’s basketball defeats Hope 64-59, improves to 13-1 (7-0 MIAA) on the season

Sunday, January 13, 2013

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Story by Mitch Blankespoor,  Photo by Sandy Palmatter

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The second-ranked Calvin women’s basketball team faced off against rival Hope Saturday, Jan. 12 at the Van Noord Arena.  In front of 2,973 fans, Calvin defeated fifth-ranked Hope 64-59 to improve to 13-1, 7-0 MIAA on the season.

Calvin sophomore guard Kayla Engelhard (Unionville/Saginaw Valley Lutheran) scored seven of the Knights’ first nine points, en route to a 9-5 Calvin lead.

Hope senior Meredith Kussmaul answered.  A season ago, Kussmaul was held out of all three Calvin-Hope matchups after suffering a season ending injury in December.  Kussmaul scored 11 of Hope’s first 12 points, and cut Calvin’s lead to 19-14. 

With Calvin holding a slim 19-16 lead, senior forward Carissa Verkaik (Holland/Holland Christian) picked up her second foul with 8:53 remaining in the first half.  Verkaik, Ally Wolffis (Muskegon/Mona Shores), Julia Hilbrands (Grand Rapids/Grand Rapids Christian) and Maria DeKuiper (Bradenton, Fla./Bradenton Christian) all had two fouls. 

Hope took advantage of all four Calvin post players in foul trouble.  A three-pointer from sophomore Brittany Berry (Grand Rapids/Catholic Central) with 2:42 cut Calvin’s lead to just two points; 27-25. 

Wolffis could manage just one of four free throws in the final minute, and Hope made Calvin pay.  Senior Courtney Kust (Cincinnati, Ohio/Cincinnati Hills Christian) missed a shot with a second to go, but junior Megan Kelley (Rockford/Rockford HS) tipped in the rebound at the buzzer, giving Hope a 29-28 lead at halftime; the Flying Dutch’s first lead of the half.

“My team showed great resilience to come back from 10 down and take the lead at halftime,” said Hope head coach Brian Morehouse after the game.  “We kept up the pressure on defense.”

Kussmaul led all scorers at the half with 14 points.  Engelhard led the Knights with nine points at halftime.  Calvin outrebounded Hope 21-19 in the first half despite committing 18 turnovers.

Hope’s biggest lead would come at the 10:25 mark of the second half.  The Flying Dutch led by six.  Two jumpers from Carissa Verkaik and a layup from Englehard later, and the game was tied at 49. 

“While it was frustrating to sit out in the first half, I trusted my teammates to keep us in the game,” Carissa Verkaik said after the game.  “Once the second half started, I just went back to playing normally.”

Hope would again lead 54-51 with six minutes remaining.  Calvin went on a 9-0 run in the next four minutes and regain the lead 60-54.  Hope got within three, but could not tie the game.  Calvin had defeated Hope for the fifth straight time at the Van Noord Arena.

“I’m just relieved to come away with the win,” Calvin head coach John Ross said in a postgame interview.  “Hope is such a good team, and they are so well coached.  We played just well enough to win.”

Carissa Verkaik and Engelhard led the Knights scoring 17 and 16 points respectively.  Hilbrands chipped in 11, and senior Logan Marsh (Byron Center/Byron Center HS) chipped in eight points and three steals. 

Kussmaul and Kelley led Hope with 16 and 13 points respectively in defeat.

Calvin shot and even 50 percent from the field, but turned the ball over 28 times and shot just 62.1 percent from the free throw line.

“We earned a victory tonight, but we have a lot of work to do,” said Ross.  “If we want to make a run at this, we need to grind through these games of not playing our best and still finding a way to win.”

Calvin returns to action Jan. 16, when it travels to Adrian for a 6:00 p.m. contest with the Bulldogs. 

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