Another trip to Albion College, another nail-biter for the Hope College Flying Dutch at Kresge Gymnasium.
But in the end, it was Hope senior guard Madison Geers of Scottville, Michigan (Mason Co. Central HS) who provided the calm in what had been a 39-minute, 53-second competitive storm to seal a hard-earned win for Hope College, 62-59, on Saturday.
With seven second to go, and with Hope up by only one, 60-59, Geers stepped to the free throw line after being fouled to shoot two. She briskly made both. Albion's mad dash back down to their end of the floor yielded a decent three-point shot by Briton Emily Bernas, but the ball caromed hard off the rim as the buzzer sounded. It was a finish somewhat reminiscent of the last game between Hope and Albion at Kresge a year ago, a game that went into overtime that the Britons won.
"Last year's game (at Albion) was on our minds all week long," said head coach Brian Morehouse. "Playing Albion is always a challenging game because Doreen (Carden, Albion's head coach) knows how to prepare her team to win. But we have a good mix of veterans and young players who know how to win too. I felt good when Madison stood at the line. She's been in those situations before, and she likes them."
Heading into Saturday's matchup, the two teams were undefeated and led the MIAA in team scoring at around 80 points a game. It was to be expected, then, that Hope and Albion would square off in typical gritty fashion. Leads in the game were slim, turnovers got numerous, and the two teams battled like it was the last week of the league season, though it was the second.
Hope jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead in the first quarter but Albion steered the direction of the game for the rest of the first half. The Britons took the lead, 6-5, at the 6:06 mark and did not relinquish it through the end of first quarter, when they led 19-15, and the end of the first half, when they led 32-29. Albion's largest lead was seven points.
The second half belonged to Hope, though. Geers got Hope back on top with a contested layup and subsequent free throw, 38-36, with 4:51 to go in the third quarter. The lead would seesaw over the next four minutes until the score was tied at the end of the third quarter, 44-44.
It was a new game with 10 minutes to go.
The Flying Dutch were first to score in the fourth quarter and from there, they never gave up the lead, owning a seven-point margin, 59-52, as late as 1:52 in the game, appropriately off two more Geers free throws. Over the next minute-and-a-half, Bernas scored a three, and Briton Rain Hinton made two layups to pull Albion to that one-point margin before Geers toed the free throw line and put the game away for Hope.
"When the buzzer sounded, I was ready to just head right to the bus and take the win," confided Morehouse.
Though Geers may have been the perfect hero from the free throw line, shooting five for five there, junior forward Francesca Buchanan of Grant, Michigan (Sparta HS) led Hope in scoring with 16. Senior Jacqueline Schwark (pictured) of Fraser, Michigan (Lutheran North HS) pulled down the most rebounds with 10 and added nine points. Freshman Kenedy Schoonveld of Holland, Michigan (Holland Christian HS), though held scoreless in the first half, was Hope's only other player in double figures with 10 points.
Hope and Albion's shooting percentage were almost identical as the Flying Dutch shot 37.3% and Albion 37.7%. "But the most imporant stat was rebounding," added Morehouse, and the Flying Dutch won the battle on the boards too, 43-39.
Hope's record now stands at 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the MIAA while Albion has a 5-1 overall record and is 1-1 in the MIAA.
The Flying Dutch will now take a week off for final exams and will be back in action on Friday, December 15 for the Post-Exam Jam Tournament at DeVos Fieldhouse. They'll face Finlandia with tipoff at 7:30 p.m.