By Mark DeHaan
Coming off an upset of nationally ranked Olivet in the first round of the MIAA Tournament on Thursday, the Calvin women's basketball team was looking for a repeat performance against the Flying Dutch of rival Hope College in the Tournament Final on Saturday night.
The Knights faced a tall-task in Hope, ranked #1 in the nation and entering with a perfect 26-0 record.
Calvin trailed by 16 at half and by 20 with just over ten minutes to go, and a Knights rally in the second half drew Calvin within four at 81-77, but the Knights would come no closer as Hope closed out an 88-79 win.
The Knights trailed by just one early at 9-8 as junior Kayla Engelhard scored six of the first eight for Calvin.
The Flying Dutch then began to slowly inch away, first increasing their lead to 24-17 with 11:23 remaining, then 33-21 a couple minutes later.
With 2:59 to go, Hope saw its largest lead of the first half at 47-30. At the break, Calvin faced a 51-35 deficit.
Junior Breanna Verkaik had 11 points in the first half for the Knights, while Maura McAfee had 16 and Brittany Berry added 13 for Hope. The Flying Dutch shot 19-of-20 from the free throw stripe in the opening half.
In the second half, Hope began to slowly expand its lead, building it up to 67-47 with 10:57 to go.
Over the next five minutes, an 18-6 run by the Knights, sparked by a three from freshman Anna Timmer, cut the Flying Dutch lead to single digits at 73-65.
Calvin continued to cut into the deficit, and with 2:10 left, a Timmer jumped put the Knights down just 81-77.
This was as close as Calvin would come, however, and Hope was able to pull away over the final two minutes to down the Knights, 88-79.
Calvin shot 52.3% from the field for the game while Hope hit 52%. The Knights were outrebounded 34-25, but forced the Flying Dutch into 19 turnovers. Hope hit 27-of-31 free throws for the game.
Engelhard led Calvin with 19 points while Verkaik added 18 points and six rebounds. Junior Hannah Acre had 12 points while Timmer chipped in 11.
McAfee paced the Flying Dutch with 27 points and 13 rebounds while Barry scored 20. Anna Kaufmann chipped in 16 and Megan Kelley scored 12.
"First half we had way too many fouls and too many breakdowns defensively. Give this group a lot of credit – we worked hard all year," said head coach John Ross. "My number one goal every year is to help my players grow in their faith and as a person, and I think we did that. We've come a long way – we were 7-5 and we came within a couple shots of winning the conference title."
The loss is the final game in the collegiate career of lone senior Kirstin Tripp, who goes down as one of the winningest players in Knights history at 95-19 for her career. Calvin's season ends with an overall record of 19-8.