by Alan Babbitt
Three intense games in a short span of six days. One-hundred and twenty action-packed minutes with a season on the line.
What a memorable, and accomplishment-filled, stretch for the Hope College men's basketball team.
The Flying Dutchmen claimed their third victory in less than a week on Saturday by edging Alma College, 94-92, at DeVos Fieldhouse.
Behind a season-high and game-high 38 points from guard Jason Beckman, pictured, Hope (14-9 overall) moved into a third-place tie in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association standings with one week remaining.
The Flying Dutchmen are even with Calvin College and Olivet College with 7-5 league records. Albion College and Trine University share the MIAA lead at 9-3. The two top regular-season finishers earn first-round byes in the MIAA Tournament, while the third- and fourth-place teams will host quarterfinal games.
Hope concludes the regular season with a home game against Olivet on Wednesday, February 13 and a road game at Albion on Saturday, February 16.
Forward Teddy Ray of Fort Wayne, Indiana (Homestead) credited Hope College's athletic training staff for helping the Flying Dutchmen perform victoriously amid a challenging week.
"Annie (Carrigan) and the athletic training staff have done a great job helping us out, getting ice baths ready. We've been taking care of our bodies, first and foremost," Ray said. "We also love being around each other, so playing that many games in a week is fun for us."
In Hope's second-highest scoring game of the season, it was a defensive play with 29 seconds remaining that was as big as any made basket.
Center Preston Granger of Lansing, Michigan (Lansing Christian) preserved an 88-86 lead by knocking the ball away from a driving Ryan Stevens near the basket. Ray jumped on the floor with Stevens to force a tie-up that gave the Flying Dutchmen possession.
After Hope inbounded, guard Riley Lewis of Williamston, Michigan (Williamston) was fouled immediately. The nation's leading free-throw shooter buried both foul shots.
Alma, still battling for the last spot in the six-team MIAA Tournament, never got the ball back with a chance to even the score again. The Scots (5-18, 4-8 MIAA) sank a 3-pointer from three-quarters court as the final buzzer sounded.
"There were some big plays like that a big difference," head coach Greg Mitchell said. "in a game that it seemed like defense was optional, we kind of found our way. I'm really proud of how we finished it off."
Beckman topped his season-high by shooting 60.9 percent from the field (14-23) and 100 percent from the free-throw line (8-8).
The 38 points are the fourth-most by a Hope player at DeVos Fieldhouse.
Hope outscored Alma 28-13 at the foul line to help counter the Scots' 15-4 edge in 3-pointers.
Granger finished with 20 points. Lewis added 13 points.
Forward Dennis Towns of Flint, Michigan (Flint Powers Catholic) totaled 12 points.
Ray matched his career-high with 13 rebounds to go along with eight points. Ray came within one rebound of the Flying Dutchmen's DeVos Fieldhouse record for a single game.
Kyle Woodruff (25 points) and Cole Kleiver (23 points) topped Alma.