Head coach Brian Morehouse couldn't be prouder of his Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association co-champion Hope College women's basketball team.
The fifth-ranked Flying Dutch took a unique path to their 16th league championship that was earned with an 87-48 win at Olivet College on Saturday.
Starting the season with six freshmen and a wide mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen, Hope forged a new starting lineup and a deep bench that propelled a 15-1 record in MIAA play and a first-place tie with Trine University.
The Flying Dutch (24-1 overall) also claimed the top seed for next week's MIAA Tournament after winning a coin flip that determined who would host the four-team event on February 23-24. Hope will face fourth-seeded Calvin College on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the semifinals.
"I'm so excited for the women on our team," Morehouse said. "The grind that they have gone through — every single day of practice they have gotten better — has been really impressive. What they have done to stay in the now every game has just been incredibly impressive. I hoped we would have a good year. They have exceeded my expectations."
The Flying Dutch went into Saturday needing their 10th win in as many tries this season to clinch at least a share of their sixth league title in eight years.
After yielding the first basket of the game. Hope ripped off a 24-0 run over 7 ½ minutes. The Flying Dutch led 26-8 after the first quarter.
Junior Francesca Buchanan of Grant, Michigan (Sparta HS) scored 11 of her game-high 16 points during the opening 10 minutes. She recorded her fifth double-double of the season with a team-high 10 rebounds.
Junior Victoria Swift of LaGrange, Illinois (Lyons Township) added eight of her 12 points during the first quarter.
Two other Hope players scored in double figures. Freshman Kenedy Schoonveld of Zeeland, Michigan (Holland Christian) netted 14 points, while senior Madison Geers of Scottville, Michigan (Mason County Central) chipped in 11 points.
The Flying Dutch held Olivet (7-18, 3-13 MIAA) to four points during the fourth quarter. It was the fifth time in six games Hope held an opponent to four points or fewer in a quarter.
"This team, they work together. They care about each other," Morehouse said. "This is a really unique team because of the discrepancy of age. There could be a lot of hurt feelings, a lot of selfishness with having freshmen in the starting lineup. We have the opposite. It's incredible what those upperclassmen have done to make this year work. A player-led team is a much better team than a coach-lead team."