By Eva Dean Folkert
Nine times the score was tied. Seventeen times the lead changed.
But the one time the sixth-ranked Hope College women's basketball team needed to deliver one more thrilling play in what had already been another thrilling installment in the Hope vs Calvin Rivalry on Wednesday at Van Noord Arena, the Flying Dutch did so on a flawless inbound pass that led to a stunning final-second shot.
Down 69-68 to the Knights with 1.4 seconds to go, Hope's Arika Tolbert (pictured) stood at the far sideline, following a timeout, about 35 feet away from the Flying Dutch's basket. The sophomore guard lofted the ball inbounds to junior center Francesca Buchanan who had positioned herself near the low post. The rainbow pass fell neatly into Buchanan's up-stretched hands and the junior center turned and will-powered her way to the basket, sinking a contested layup as two Calvin players defended her on each side.
That game-winning bucket gave Hope a 70-69 floor-storming win over Calvin.
VIDEO: Replay of game-winning shot
"They had kids step up, we had kids step up. There is not a better game in the United States today. There can't be," said coach Brian Morehouse. "Not in Division I, II, or III. If you weren't watching this game, you were missing out."
The Flying Dutch are now 12-1 in the MIAA, a half game out of first place. Their 21-1 overall record also has the Flying Dutch ranked number one in the Great Lakes Region in a recently released NCAA poll.
Calvin stands at fourth place in the MIAA with a 9-5 league record and is 14-9 overall.
As for that last play that would define the essence of this latest Rivalry game, Buchanan knew what was coming her way, but maybe just not that perfectly.
"Mo drew it up (during the timeout), and it was either lob the ball to Frankie, or get it to Kenedy (Schoonveld) on the outside," explained Buchanan. "I walked out on the court and I was like, 'God, give me strength. God, give me strength.' My knees were shaking, I was so nervous. I've never been so nervous.
"Arika got the ball, I went in, I got low, like we've been practicing at practice," Buchanan continued. "I thought she overthrew it at first so I'm thinking I'm going to miss it, I can't get it, (but) it just fell into my hands. I went up with it and I came down and I thought, 'How much time do we have left? Do we have to play defense?' I looked up and time was out...I'm still at a loss for words."
Calvin held its largest lead, 7-0, in the first quarter after they got out to a hot start. Hope owned a six-point margin in the third period. Most of the time, though, the two teams see-sawed their way through 40 minutes.
The final tie score in the game was at 64-64 after Calvin's Bre Luurtsma made a free throw at the fourth quarter's 1:53 mark. The Knights owned slim leads and seeming momentum the rest of the way. That is until the score changed Hope's way one last time at the final buzzer.
"I'm not sure many people were picking us (to win) with a minute to go in that game, or five seconds to go, or 1.1 seconds to go, but the kids were just persistent," said Morehouse. "They kept battling the whole game."
Hope, which shot 40.9% from the field, had nine players score in the game and were led by four starters in double figures — Buchanan with 15 point and four assists, Madison Geers with 13 points and five assists, and Schoonveld and Lauren Newman each with 11 points.
Calvin, which shot 42.9% from the field, had a balanced scoring attack as well with five players reaching double digits. Ali Spayde led the Knights with 18, followed by Becca Richards with 16, Luurtsma with 14, Kara Minderhoud 11 and Nicole Meyer 10.
The Flying Dutch outrebounded the Knights, 40-33, as Geers and Buchanan gathered eight boards each for Hope.
Hope now returns home to DeVos Fieldhouse for its next two league games. The Flying Dutch host Saint Mary's on Saturday, February 10 for Senior Day. Tipoff is at 3:00 pm.