GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Calvin women's basketball team opened its season at Cornerstone University on Monday night. The Knights fell to the Golden Eagles 70-59 in the Battle of the Beltline.
Cornerstone was already seven games into its season prior to its matchup with Calvin. With the Golden Eagles improve to 3-5 on the season.
The Knights are coming off a 22-6 season, which included a 12-4 MIAA record under first-year head coach Chuck Winkelman. Last season, the Knights finished third in the MIAA regular season standings and as runner-up in the MIAA Tournament Final. Calvin later received an at-large bid to the 2017 NCAA III Tournament.
The Golden Eagles scored the first two buckets of the game, but sophomore Kara Minderhoud (Grand Rapids, Mich./Covenant Christian) responded with back-to-back three-pointers to give Calvin an early 6-4 lead. Cornerstone pushed back, outscoring the Knights 12-4 to go ahead by six. The Knights chipped away at Cornerstone's lead as junior Rachel Warners (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) and senior Ali Spayde (Lewis Center, Ohio/Worthington Christian) knocked down triples. The Golden Eagles' offense didn't let up, however, and the home team held a 24-19 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Cornerstone claimed the first six points of the second quarter to gain a double-digit advantage. The Knights were answered by scoring eight straight points. Minderhoud sparked the run with a triple, Spayde sunk a jumper and another three by Minderhoud brought the Knights within three points of the Golden Eagles.
Cornerstone regained the momentum with an 11-3 run. A bucket by Spayde with 1:46 left in the half broke a nearly three-minute long Calvin dry spell, bringing the deficit down to single digits.
At the halftime break, the Golden Eagles held a 41-34 lead over their visitors. Cornerstone scored 14 points off of Calvin's nine first-half turnovers.
The Knights came out strong in the third quarter, as junior Becca Richards (Fort Gratiot, Mich./Port Huron Northern) hit a three-pointer and Spayde followed with layup to make it a two-point game and force a Cornerstone timeout.
The two teams exchanged points with the Golden Eagles maintaining their lead. But with 5:45 left in the third quarter, the Knights scored back-to-back buckets to make the score 46-45, still in favor of Cornerstone. After three scoreless minutes on both sides, a deep three by Spayde gave Calvin a 48-46 advantage. Cornerstone answered with a bucket in the next possession, after being held scoreless for 5:40. The Golden Knights closed out the quarter by outscoring the Knights 4-2 to hold a narrow 52-50 advantage heading into the final quarter.
Despite outscoring their opponents 16-11 in the third quarter, the Knights were unable to maintain their momentum in the final quarter as the Golden Eagles doubled Calvin's fourth-quarter points
Cornerstone built its lead to nine early in the final quarter, while Calvin didn't score until the 4:23 mark. The Golden Eagles continued to put up points, outscoring the Knights 8-3 to build a 12-point lead. Layups by Warners and Spayde made the score 67-59 with just over a minute left on the clock. The Knights found themselves in foul trouble late in the game, and Cornerstone capitalized on a trio of free throw chances to clinch the victory.
Spayde led all players with 34 points, also finishing with a team-high five assists. Minderhoud followed with 14 points, while Richards finished with six points and six rebounds.
Cornerstone was led in scoring by Jesse Sheridan who finished with 20 points. The Golden Eagles recorded 70 rebounds compared to Calvin's 59.
The Knights are back on the road this weekend at they travel to the University of Rochester for the Chuck Resler Invitational. Calvin will face Thomas More on Friday afternoon in its first game of the four-team tournament. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.