by Alan Babbitt
Preston Granger played with Jim Fry's name on his purple Hope College basketball jersey in honor or his assistant basketball coach who recently learned he has cancer.
Calvin Hackert's jersey simply read 'Mom' in honor of Dina Hackert's cancer battle for two decades.
It was an emotional afternoon Saturday at DeVos Fieldhouse for the Flying Dutchmen as they suited up in their Purple Community game benefitting Van Andel Institute. While Hope lost to Alma College, 91-86, thoughts of loved ones impacted by cancer and neurodegenerative diseases mattered more.
"My high coach assistant coach just found out he has Stage-3 cancer. He has been a great supporter," said Granger, a junior forward from Lansing, Michigan (Lansing Christian HS). "Before the game, I was getting a little choked up hearing how everyone is impacted by this evil thing."
Granger and his teammates lined up together on the court before the game as public address announcer Darrin Duistermars read the names represented on the back of Hope's special jerseys.
Hackert, a senior guard from Ludington, Michigan (Ludington), has watched his mother, Hope women's basketball 1990 national championship hero, bravely face her own health challenges.
"My mom has gone through a lot the past 10, 15 years, three bouts with different kinds of cancer," Hackert said. "It meant a lot to me to have her name on the back and have her here watching."
Granger scored a career-high 40 points against Alma. He became the fourth Flying Dutchmen player to reach the 40-point mark at DeVos Fieldhouse — joining Will Bowser (46 points vs. Kalamazoo in 2011), Jason Beckman (41 points vs. Alma in 2018), and Nate Snuggerud (40 points vs. Illinois Wesleyan in 2012).
Freshman forward Evan Thomas of Okemos, Michigan (Okemos) recorded his second consecutive double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Tyler George of Ada, Michigan (Forest Hills Central) chipped in 11 points, while Hackert added eight.
Hope (10-7 overall, 3-3 MIAA) could not overcome Alma's 52.5 percent shooting from the field, including 11 made 3-pointers.
The Scots (8-9, 2-4 MIAA) put five players in double figures as they earned their first road win against Hope since the 1994 season. Steven Harvey's 19 points topped Alma. Cole Kleiver, who finished with 16 points, sank a game-clinching, 16-foot jumper with 12 seconds remaining.
The Flying Dutchmen also could not overcome their own 12 missed free throws and being minus-four on the boards. The 91 points are the most Hope has allowed this season.
"(The loss) is disappointing on a lot of levels," head coach Greg Mitchell said. "The Purple Community Game reminds us that there is more than wins and losses. The names on our backs are far more important. These are the people who mean so much to us."
Hope's next game is Wednesday, January 29 against Trine University. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.