by Eva Dean Folkert
The Hope College men's basketball team dug deep and withstood a frenzied and sharp-shooting Alma College charge on Wednesday night. The Scots overcame a 24-point Hope lead over the last 14 minutes of regulation to tie the game, and then went up four points with 1:36 to go in overtime. But the Flying Dutchmen were able to keep their composure, in no small part due to freshman guard Clayton Dykhouse, pictured, and Hope escaped with a 98-96 win at Alma.
"I'm not sure I've ever been as proud of our team as I was after this game. Their grit and toughness in overtime was amazing," said head coach Greg Mitchell. "Yeah, it was tough to lose that lead, but to still have the resolve to find a way to win, I'm just so proud and happy for our guys. We needed that."
With the victory, Hope snaps a five-game losing streak and moves to .500 with a 12-12 overall record while being 5-8 in the MIAA. With one game left in the regular season, Hope is in sixth place alone in the league standings, one game ahead of Kalamazoo College.
The top six teams make the MIAA Tournament which starts on Tuesday, February 25.
Hope built its lead against Alma with good ball movement and balanced scoring throughout much of the game's first 26 minutes. Sophomore guard Tyler George of Ada (Forest Hills Central HS) gave the Flying Dutchmen their first lead of the game, 19-17, after hitting two quick back-to-back three-pointers at the midway point of the first half.
At halftime, Hope led by nine, 42-33.
After the second half opened, the Flying Dutchmen immediately extended their lead to 20 in a span of two-and-a-half minutes by scoring 11 unanswered points off of two three-pointers by guard Dykhouse of Zeeland (Zeeland East HS), one three-pointer by forward Jeff Bikus of Hawthorn Woods, Illinois (Mundelein HS), and a nifty lay-in by center Preston Granger of Lansing (Lansing Christian HS).
Hope was up by 24 points at the 14:22 mark and looked to be in solid control. But the Scots patiently whittled away Hope's wide margin, and it was Alma's Cole Kleiver who was almost entirely responsible for the Scot comeback. The sophomore guard scored 24 of his 33 points over the last six minutes to tie the game, 85-85, at the end of regulation.
Fortunately for Hope, the hot-handed Kleiver fouled out one minute into the overtime period. And though the Flying Dutchmen fell behind by four with just 1:36 to go, it was freshman Dykhouse who stepped up in a mature way to score five of Hope's last seven points to help seal the victory.
"We had a timeout when they went up four and I just said, 'Guys, we're going to find a way to win this game.' And Clayton believed, goes out scores a layup, gets an and-one. Scores another layup. He really grew up a lot tonight."
Granger had a big double-double to lead Hope in scoring (30) and rebounding (14). Dykhouse finished with 21 points, George with 19, and Evan Thomas of Okemos (Okemos HS) with 15.
The Flying Dutchmen outshot the Scots, 50% to 41%, but Alma outrebounded Hope, 43-37.
Hope remains on the road, traveling to Trine University on Saturday, February 22 for its regular-season finale at 3 p.m.