The Hope College women's basketball team's dominance against Trine University had been ongoing for more than 25 years. Unfortunately, it ended Saturday afternoon with the MIAA title on the line as the eighth-ranked Flying Dutch suffered a 70-53 loss to the No. 22 Thunder at DeVos Fieldhouse.
Trine (22-2, 15-1 MIAA) claimed the regular-season championship and will host the MIAA Tournament next weekend.
Hope (22-3, 14-2) will be the second seed and play third-seeded Calvin College Friday at 5:30 p.m. Trine and Albion will meet in the 7:30 p.m. semifinal. Winners square off on Saturday for the MIAA's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
"We didn't play as well as we would've liked, but credit to them," Hope coach Brian Morehouse said. "They played really well in a championship-level game."
The Flying Dutch were 30-1 all-time against Trine all-time before Saturday's defeat and lost for the first time to the Thunder since 1991, when they were Tri-State University. It also was Trine's first MIAA win over Hope.
"We lost today and they won," Morehouse said. "They played better than we did. There wasn't a bad team out there today. One team played better than the other and it happened to be the blue team."
A slow start and poor shooting were main factors in the loss.
Trine connected on three 3-pointers in the first quarter and surged to a 23-9 lead. A late 3-pointer by Madison Geers made it 23-12 at the end of the first quarter.
The Thunder increased their advantage to 27-12 early in the second and led 37-24 at halftime.
Hope shot 25 percent (9-36) from the field in the first half, while Trine shot 50 percent, including 56 percent from behind the 3-point line.
"The slow start hurt us, and we didn't shoot the ball real well and they shot the ball really well," Morehouse said. "They shot 58 percent in the first quarter. That got them off to a great start, and I think we played a little better defense as they game went along, but that gave them the lead that we couldn't quite ever get back."
Hope got to within eight at 58-50 with 3:11 remaining, but didn't get any closer after an 8-1 run by Trine ended its title hopes.
"I always feel like we have a shot, and you get it down to eight with 3 minutes to go you feel it's a survivable number," Morehouse said. "I thought if we could've gotten it to 4 then the place gets a little bit louder and then I think the energy takes over from that point."
Sophomore Francesca Buchanan of Grant, Michigan (Sparta HS), led Hope with 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field. Geers, of Scottville, Michigan (Mason County Central), had 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
"It's really tough when they come out really strong," Buchanan said. "It was about focusing on persistency and consistency and tonight we lacked on that. That's tough in this big of a game, but you have to move on from.
"We talked about it after the game that we are going to get better because of this. I think little things that happened in the game we can fix and will fix and we're going to play hard next weekend."
Haley Martin and Brandi Dawson combined for 43 points and 12 rebounds to pace Trine, which upped its winning streak to eight games.
Morehouse knows his team has improvements to make before the tournament.
"We have to get better," he said. "We have to answer the call next week and play as hard as we can and tweak some things. I don't think we played bad today. We played hard and we rebounded with them.
"We missed shots, and part of that was Trine's really good defense and there were a couple shots we would've liked to have back that we normally make."
— Story by Dean Holzwarth