HOLLAND, Mich. – The Calvin women's basketball team tipped off against host No. 5 Hope College on Friday evening in the first round of the 2018 MIAA Tournament. The contest marked the 121st edition of The Rivalry series. The Knights rallied back from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to tie the score at 50 at the end of regulation, but fell 63-58 in overtime.
"We're gritty. I've been doing this 31 years and have been blessed to coach some outstanding people. This has been one of my favorite teams to coach. I love this team and I'm really proud of how we battled all year," said head women's basketball coach Chuck Winkelman.
The Knights overcame multiple obstacles in the 2017-18 season to finish with a 16-10 overall record. With the win, Hope improves to 25-1 and will face Trine tomorrow in the MIAA Tournament Finals.
"I want to wish Hope and Trine all the best," said Winkelman. "If they both play each other in the national championship, that would be great for our league. And I hope one of them wins the national championship and brings it back to MIAA."
Calvin finished tied with Albion for third place in MIAA regular season standings with 11-5 conference records, but Albion won a coin flip to earn the third seed for the four-team tournament. Hope and Trine posted 15-1 conference records to tie for the MIAA regular season title, but Hope won a coin toss for the top seed and to host the tournament at DeVos Fieldhouse. Calvin was picked to finish third in the 2017-18 MIAA pre-season coaches' poll and Hope second.
Through 50 years of The Rivalry, Calvin holds a 71-50 series lead. Hope won both regular-season matchups, claiming a narrow 58-51 victory on January 13 at DeVos Fieldhouse and a 70-69 buzzer-beater win on February 7 at Van Noord Arena.
Saturday's contest marked the second year in a row that the two rivals have met in the MIAA Tournament Semifinals, and the first time the two rivals have gone to overtime in a conference tournament game. Hope and Calvin have met 17 times in the MIAA Tournament, with the Knights holding a 9-8 advantage. The Knights have won the past two tournament meetings – 67-65 in the last year's semifinals at Trine and 77-73 in the 2015 title game at Van Noord Arena.
The Flying Dutch went up 5-0 to start the game, but the Knights responded with three straight buckets to take an early lead. Sophomore Nicole Meyer (Macomb, Mich./Eisenhouwer) got the Knights on the board before senior Bre Luurtsema (Holland, Mich./Holland Christian) and sophomore Kara Minderhoud (Grand Rapids, Mich./Covenant Christian) followed with buckets of their own.
Hope used a pair of three-pointers to answer with a 10-2 run in the following three minutes. After over a minute of no scoring on either side, senior Ali Spayde (Lewis Center, Ohio/Worthington Christian) hit a jump shot from the short corner to bring make the score 15-10, still in favor of the Flying Dutch.
Hope's Jacquelyn Schwark responded with the Flying Dutch's fourth triple of the game before the Knights closed out the first quarter with four straight points to trail 18-14.
The Flying Dutch opened the second quarter with two quick buckets to lead by eight and force a Calvin timeout. Another Hope bucket gave the home team a 24-14 advantage before Luurtsema scored the Knights' first basket of the quarter to reduce the deficit back to single digits.
Hope held the Knights scoreless for the next four minutes to build an 11-point lead with just under five minutes remaining before halftime. With two-and-half minutes on the clock, Luurstema capitalized on an old-fashioned three-point play to break the Knights' scoreless spell. The Flying Dutch hit a deep jumper, but Minderhoud responded with back-to-back threes to give the Knights momentum heading into the break. Hope held on to a 29-25 lead at halftime.
The Flying Dutch opened up the second half on a five-point run before the Knights called timeout. Hope continued to roll out of the break, knocking down two more buckets to earn a 13-point lead.
The Knights were held scoreless for the first four minutes of the half until Luurtsema knocked down a free throw. After another Hope bucket gave the Flying Dutch their largest lead of the game at 14, Minderhoud strung together four straight points to make it a 10-point game. Hope's Victoria Swift answered by converting on an old-fashioned three-point play, but Spayde responded with a three-point field goal to make the score to 43-33. The Knights chipped Hope's lead down to eight points heading into the final quarter as freshman Rebecca Boeve (Grandville, Mich./Covenant Christian) hit a jump shot a minute later. After baskets on both sides, Hope held a 45-37 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Calvin came out strong in the fourth quarter as Minderhoud and Spayde scored to bring the Knights within four points of the Flying Dutch. The two teams exchanged points before sophomore Alexus Thomas (Little Rock, Ark./Little Rock Christian Academy) hit a pull-up jumper to make it a two-point contest with five-and-a-half minutes remaining.
With just under five minutes left to play, Hope made a free throw to lead 48-45. But, after nearly two minutes of no scoring, Meyer drained a timely triple to knot the score. A bucket by Spayde gave the Knights a 50-48 lead with just over two minutes to play.
The Flying Dutch failed to score on their next two possessions and were forced to foul as the clock wound down to the final minute. Hope got the ball back with 24 seconds left and Francesca Buchanan scored to tie the game. The Knights failed to score in their final possession of the game and the two teams headed to overtime.
Hope scored the first overtime basket, but Spayde answered with a layup. A triple by Hope's Madison Geers gave the Flying Dutch a 55-52 lead before Spayde drained a pair of free throws make it a one-point game.
With just under two minutes to play, Geers made another three to make the score 58-54, in favor of the Flying Dutch. Junior Becca Richards (Fort Gratiot, Mich./Port Huron Northern) responded with a jump shot before Hope scored again to go up by four and force a Calvin timeout.
Out of the break, Spayde laid in a bucket to make it 60-58 before Hope called timeout. Out of the break, Hope's Buchanan was fouled and knocked down two free throws to give regain the four-point advantage for the Flying Dutch with nine seconds left. The Knights failed to score in the final seconds as Hope claimed a narrow five-point victory.
Spayde led the Knights in scoring, finishing with 21 points while also snagging six rebounds. Minderhoud posted a double-double with 14 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. Luurtsema had a solid all-around game with 12 points, six boards and four assists. Meyer contributed seven boards, five points and three blocks in the loss.
The Knights shot 44.4% from the floor, while the Dutch shot 34.2%. Calvin also held a 46-35 rebounding advantage, but gave up 23 turnovers compared to Hope's six.
Senior co-captains Ali Spayde and Bre Luurtsema played their last game in a Calvin uniform on Saturday night. Both Spayde and Luurtsema were key contributors for the Knights, both on and off the court. Over the past four years, the senior duo has helped the Calvin women's basketball program compile a won-loss record of 88-22 that includes three 20-win campaigns, two MIAA Tournament titles, two trips to the NCAA III Tournament and a 30-1 season their freshman year of 2014-15.
Both seniors earned conference honors this season as Spayde was named to the All-MIAA First Team and Luurtsema the All-MIAA Second Team. During the regular season, Spayde led the MIAA in points with 303 and points-per-game at 18.9. She also led the MIAA in free throw percentage at 85.1 Luurtsema led the MIAA in four statistical categories with 87 free throws, 64 offensive rebounds, 136 total rebounds and 8.5 rebounds per game. She also was fourth in total points with 219 and 13.7 points per game.
Spayde wraps up Calvin career as the leader in three-point field goals (208) and ranks fourth on the Calvin career scoring list with 1,478 points. She was a member of the All-MIAA first team as a junior and also received D3hoops.com Great Lakes All-Region honors last March.
"Bre is my best friend. We do everything together. It's hard to think about not being able to play with her," said Spayde. "Coming into Calvin, I didn't even know how great the tradition was. I am so grateful to have been a part of a team, all four years, that has been just incredible. Whether it's freshman year being undefeated and going to the Elite Eight, battling it out in practice or games like this. I'm so thankful to have been part of an elite program."
Luurtsema was a member of the ALL-MIAA first team as a sophomore and a member of the All-MIAA second team as a junior, while also receiving D3hoops.com Great Lakes All-Region honors in 2016. She ends her Calvin career ranked fifth on the Calvin career rebounding list with 681 boards.
"It's been an amazing journey. Ali and I have been through a lot – coaching changes and different players coming through – it's been great to have Ali by my side through all of it. We've been blessed with great teammates and great coaches throughout the years. I'm very thankful for this experience, and I'm excited to see this program grow. I think coach is going to take it to the next level."