by Alan Babbitt
The nimble hands of guard Riley Lewis came in handy for the Hope College men's basketball team in a must-win situation.
The junior from Williamston, Michigan (Williamston HS) made a steal along the baseline in the closing seconds to help the Flying Dutchmen leave Kalamazoo College with an 87-83 victory on Monday.
Hope (12-9 overall) distanced itself from the sixth-place Hornets and sixth-place Alma College in the race for the final two spots in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament. With a 5-5 league record, the Flying Dutchmen are two games ahead of Kalamazoo and Alma in the MIAA standings.
Lewis, pictured, scored a game-high 24 points but made as big as any contribution with a game-deciding swipe at the end of the game.
Hope held a perilous 86-83 lead with eight seconds remaining when Lewis swiped the ball away from Kalamazoo's Tanner Blyly underneath the Hornets' basket. Lewis was fouled, then split its free-throw attempts to preserve the victory.
"This validates what I think about this team. I love this team," head coach Greg Mitchell said. "I love how we've practiced all year. I think we've gotten better all year. We have a thin margin of error. The (missed) free throws were a big thing, but we overcame them and found a way to win. That's the sign of a tough team."
The Flying Dutchmen ended Kalamazoo's three-game win streak by bouncing back from an 82-80 loss at home to Calvin College on Saturday. It was a makeup game from a January 30 postponement due to inclement weather.
Hope overcame unusual poor foul shooting during the game — a season-low 31.6 percent (6-19).
Sophomore center Preston Granger of Lansing, Michigan (Lansing Christian HS) chipped in 20 points.
Senior forward Dennis Towns of Flint, Michigan (Flint Powers Catholic) recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Calvin Hackert of Ludington, Michigan (Ludington) scored 11 points — all during the first half.
Hope charged to a 34-18 lead midway through the first half by sinking 17 of its first 22 field-goal attempts (77.3 percent).
Kalamazoo (6-15, 3-7 MIAA) cut the deficit to 48-40 by halftime. Lewis, who scored 15 first-half points, buried a jumper with 1:12 remaining to give the Flying Dutchmen an eight-point lead.
Hope continues a three-game week on Wednesday, February 6 at Adrian College.