by Lukas Cimbal
The Hope College men's basketball team shut down Adrian College's Jordan Harris during the first half on Tuesday night, holding the junior guard scoreless.
The second half was a completely different story, though, as the first team All-MIAA player scored all of his game-high 25 points over the final 20 minutes to help lead the No. 3-seed Bulldogs to an 83-73 win over No. 6-seed Hope in the first round of the MIAA Tournament.
Adrian (15-11) advanced to face No. 2-seed Calvin University on Friday night, while Hope concluded the season with a 12-14 record.
"The way we came out in the second half though was disappointing because we survived a really challenging situation (in the first half) with other guys contributing, then we dug ourselves a monster hole. That allowed Harris to play free and have the courage to take those kinds of shots.
"It's a credit to (Harris) for sure, but we just had some mental errors and some missed assignment. That's just kind of who we have been (all season). Our guys like each other and they're fun to coach because they show up every day to battle, but at times we show mental lapses and it just bleeds into other parts of the game."
Adrian, which led 36-34 at halftime, extended its lead with a 12-2 run during the first four minutes of the second half.
Four consecutive 3-pointers from Harris, the last of which resulted in a four-point play, fueled a decisive 31-11 run for the Bulldogs that resulted in a 67-45 lead with 9:13 left in the game.
Hope scored the next 10 points to close within 12 with 6:13 to go, but Adrian was able to withstand the pressure by making 11-of-16 free throws over the final six minutes of the game.
Freshman forward Evan Thomas of Okemos, Michigan (Okemos) led the Flying Dutchmen with 22 points and seven rebounds.
Junior forward Preston Granger of Lansing, Michigan (Lansing Christian) added 15 points and six rebounds while sitting the final 10 ½ minutes of the first half with two fouls.
Freshman guard Clayton Dykhouse of Zeeland, Michigan (Zeeland East) added 13 points and six assists.
Despite the loss and a difficult season overall, Thomas was reflective when discussing his freshman campaign.
"I came in just trying to find out what my role was gonna be (this season)," Thomas said. "With Clayton (Dykhouse) and I coming in as freshmen, Coach Mitchell really placed a lot of trust in us. It was a little bit different at the beginning of the season playing guys who were stronger and taller, but I tried to become more aggressive and confident as the season went on.
"Obviously, we're really disappointed because we thought coming into this tournament that we could shock a lot of people. Now we're just kind of looking forward to next year because we have a lot of guys coming back who are gonna work hard to make the next season better than this one. We're going take a couple days off to get our bodies back to healthy and then we're going right back at it. Hope historically doesn't have many seasons like this, so we've got to get back to what we're used to, back to winning."