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Women’s Basketball Falls to Hope in Homecoming Thriller at Van Noord Arena

Saturday, February 21, 2009

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MIAA TOURNAMENT TICKET INFORMATION:
Tuesday, Feb. 24 Calvin vs Alma at 7:30pm - doors open at 6:30pm.
General Admission tickets for Tuesday’s game will be on sale at the Box Office on Monday, February 23 from 12:00pm - 5:00pm and Tuesday, February 24 from 9:00am until 5:00pm.  Tickets will also be sold at the Arena starting at 6:30pm on Tuesday.

By Chaz Amidon

GRAND RAPIDS – Calvin’s regular season finale against No. 2 Hope ended in a loss for the surging Knights, but, considering the circumstances, it wasn’t a completely deflating homecoming game for coach John Ross’s squad.

A mesmerizing second-half comeback fell just short and the Knights (15-9, 9-7) nearly upset the first-place Dutch, dropping a 68-65 decision in front of a crowd of 3,175 at the Van Noord Arena.

Sarah Partridge’s game-tying 3-point attempt sailed over the rim as time expired as Calvin lost its fifth straight to its archrival, dating back to Feb. 24, 2007.

“We gave it everything we had,” said Calvin women’s basketball coach John Ross. “I can’t fault the effort of my players one bit. I’ve got great kids on this team and they played with a lot of heart, particularly our seniors. It hurts to lose but I’m proud of this team and we’re looking forward to the MIAA Tournament.”

The Dutch (22-1, 15-1) drubbed Calvin 73-49 back on Jan. 14 at the DeVos Fieldhouse in Holland, a contest where the Knights committed a season-worst 32 turnovers and received only eight combined points from their starting lineup.

This time, Calvin orchestrated a 28-10 run to take the lead with three minutes remaining, but Hope’s Jenny Cowen nailed a 3-pointer and sunk two free throws in the final 46 seconds to give the Dutch their 14th consecutive victory.

Senior center, Marcia Harris recorded a team-high 14 points on 7-of-15 shooting, Kristi Brummel added 13 points and Brook Van Eck chipped in 12 as the Knights outrebounded Hope 31-17 in the second half and forced nine turnovers down the stretch.

Amber Benthem drained a pair of 3s during Calvin’s electrifying comeback, which was punctuated by an Emily Ottenhoff long ball that gave the Knights a 61-58 lead with 3:14 left in regulation – their first since leading 6-5 less than five minutes into the game.

“It all started with our defense,” Brummel said of the comeback. “We’ve been working on our press a lot and we started to get some steals, some deflections, and I think Hope was starting to get flustered. That sparked our offense – we hit some 3s, we got to the line and it all just kind of worked together.”

Calvin had a 63-62 advantage after two Brummel free throws but was whistled for a shot clock violation with 58 seconds left, giving way to Cowen’s lead-changing 3 just 12 seconds later.

Cowen, who scored 20 points against the Knights on Jan. 14, dialed in four 3-pointers en route to totaling a game-high 26 points while hauling in nine rebounds. Carrie Snikkers poured in 13 points and Courtney Knox added 10.

“We played our hearts out out there,” said Brummel. “The last game, it wasn’t even close. We just came out there, we knew it was going to be a battle and an emotional game.”

Calvin’s three freshmen – Courtney Kurncz, Leah Mattson and Jill Thomas – combined to surrender only five turnovers against Hope’s league-best defense, which is limiting opponents to 32.9 percent from the floor in conference action.

“The freshmen and the non-seniors really needed this game to know, ‘Hey, we’re going to be okay next year,’” said Harris. “You can’t ask for better things from them. They all stepped up and played well.”

The Knights’ five-game win streak was snapped, matching their longest stretch of the season. They started the year 5-0 before falling to No. 7 Thomas More on Nov. 29.

Calvin is now 5-3 in games at the Van Noord Arena, but will have a chance to improve that record when it hosts a first round contest in the MIAA Tournament on Tuesday. The Knights will face off against sixth-place Alma (9-15, 7-9), a team that swept the regular season series from the Knights in a pair of overtime wins. Both wins were by four points.

NOTES:  Calvin still leads the all-time series with Hope, 61-34…Since 2000, Hope holds a 19-5 series advantage…Ross is now 4-11 against the Dutch, while Hope coach Brian Morehouse is 21-12 against Calvin…The Knights have shot 77 percent or better from the free throw line in six of their last seven games (5-2 during that stretch)…Hope was coming off back-to-back 100-point games before scoring 68 against Calvin, while shooting just 35 percent from the floor.

Posted in: Women's Basketball
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