by Eva Dean Folkert
Classic. Just classic.
What else would you expect from the 200th time Hope College and Calvin College played each other in men's basketball?
Another Rivalry showdown, this time marking a major milestone between the two teams, came down to frenzied final seconds at DeVos Fieldhouse on Saturday. Of course, it would. It's typically been that way in this storied Rivalry. Two hundred games, 200 different ways for the final, intense moments to play out.
This time, with Hope down by only two points with four seconds to go after a missed Calvin free throw, a hard-charging Jason Beckman raced the length of the court in an attempt to at least send the game into overtime. He drove fast past two sticky defenders, putting up a five-foot, off-balance, right-handed shot at the buzzer. His last-chance effort missed though, bouncing firmly off the rim and backboard, and Hope fell to the Knights, 82-80.
Though Hope leads The Rivalry's all-time series, 103-97, since 1920, the loss drops the Flying Dutchmen to 11-9 overall and 4-5 in the MIAA for fifth place. Calvin moves to 10-10 and a 5-4 MIAA record for fourth place.
Summary of media coverage of The Rivalry
Photo of Dennis Towns by Steven Herppich
And now, after all these games and all these years, only 100 points separate the two teams over 200 games for a half-point difference per contest.
Of course, there was much more to this historic game than another frenetic finish. Hot-handed shooters in the first five minutes of play, physical battles in the paint, up-tempo offense, testy defense. Those were all characteristics of the game. But so too were a couple scoring droughts for the Flying Dutchmen, one in each half.
"The stage here (with 3575 in attendance), the league race, and obviously The Rivalry magnified [today's game]," said Hope head coach Greg Mitchell. "We tried our hardest to keep the game as simple as we could. In other words, we know The Rivalry is going to be exciting, but it's still about hitting shots, defending and rebounding. I thought we did a good job being consistent for about 36 minutes, 35 minutes. But I think that five-minute (lulls), divided up between the halves were the difference."
This week's polar vortex that hit West Michigan and cancelled classes for a couple days for both colleges did little to cool off a hot start to the game. During the first five minutes, the two teams each shoot over 70 percent; Calvin getting most of its offensive accuracy from junior forward Alex Bos who went 4-for-4 from the 3-point line in that time frame and Hope answering back with almost-equalizing points from Beckman and Riley Lewis who scored the Flying Dutchmen's first 13 points in that time.
By the game's 12:32 mark, Hope took its first lead, 17-16, on a Preston Granger layup. The Flying Dutchmen would hold a lead over the Knights for the next eight minutes. With 3:43 left to play in the first half though, Calvin regained the advantage, 28-26, on a Derrick DeVries layup. The Knights would not relinquish the lead again in the game while heading into halftime up by two, 38-36.
Calvin opened the second half with a 10-2 run, taking a 10-point lead, 48-38, in under four minutes. The Flying Dutchmen whittled away at the Knight's lead all half, even though Calvin's biggest lead at the 4:41 mark increased to 11, 73-62. By 2:53, Hope trailed by five points (73-68) after two Lewis free throws; at 1:55 by four points (75-71) after a Lewis 3-pointer; and, at :13 to go, by three points (81-78) after another Lewis three.
Then with seven seconds to go, the Flying Dutchmen got within one, 81-80, when Beckman sank two free throws. Three seconds later, wingman DeVries made his first free throw then missed his second and that mad dash by Beckman ensued to end the game.
In speaking about his mood in moving forward, Mitchell said, "A season is all about staying the course and as disappointed as I am about the loss, I'm equally as proud of all these guys in staying together and being gritty. Disappointment after disappointment, it's tough to keep that resolve. But I think we do have that resolve and I'm proud of our guys for that."
The last time Hope and Calvin met in January at VanNoord Arena, the Knights won the battle of the boards by 15. This time, the Flying Dutchmen held a one-rebound advantage, 35-34. Hope also had more points in the paint, 42-36. The Knights, however, scored more bench points, 27-3.
Granger recorded a double-double. The sophomore from Lansing (Lansing Christian HS) scored a Rivalry- and career-high with 23 points while grabbing 14 rebounds.
Junior Lewis of Williamston (Williamston HS) led the Flying Dutchmen with 24 points. Senior Beckman of Shelby (Shelby HS) and senior Dennis Towns of Flint (Powers Catholic HS) added 19 and 11 points, respectively.
Calvin also had four players in double figures: DeVries with 18, Bos with 17, Austin Bykerk with 16, and Carlos Amoros-Gutierrez with 14.
The Flying Dutchmen suit up again in just two days to play a rescheduled game at Kalamazoo College on Monday, February 4. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.