Story and photo by Alan Babbitt
In an environment unlike any in NCAA Division III women's basketball this season, second-ranked Hope College refused to let a worthy opponent steal its thunder.
The Flying Dutch turned back No. 23 Trine University, pulling away in the second half for a 59-52 victory that clinched the fourth perfect regular season in team history, an outright MIAA championship and the top seed in next week's league tournament.
Hope (25-0 overall) delivered a crowning achievement in front of 2,079 fans at DeVos Fieldhouse — the largest crowd in NCAA Division III women's basketball this season.
"It was electric. It was crackling in here with energy. Our players felt that," head coach Brian Morehouse said of the atmosphere.
Added leading scorer Kenedy Schoonveld, "It's so cool — you can just feel the energy in here," Schoonveld said. "The sound is so loud and you can just physically feel it — so awesome."
Schoonveld provided a second-half charge that allowed the Flying Dutch to outscore Trine (20-5, 14-2 MIAA) by a 34-26 margin after halftime.
The junior from Zeeland, Michigan (Holland Christian HS) scored 10 of her team-high 14 points during the second half. In the third quarter alone, Schoonveld shot 3-of-5 from the field, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, for eight points.
Sophomore guard Kasey DeSmit of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville) netted seven points during the third quarter on 3-of-3 shooting from the field, including one 3-pointer. Junior forward Ashleigh Thomas of Shelby Township, Michigan (Lutheran North) also buried a 3 pointer for Hope.
The Flying Dutch totaled 21 points during the third quarter against the nation's second-ranked team in scoring defense. Hope answered five 3s for 15 third-quarter points from the Thunder.
The game featured the nation's top two scoring defenses. Trine's 52 points were the most scored by an opponent against Hope this season.
In the second half, the Flying Dutch sank six 3-pointers after making just one in the first half.
Junior guard Lauren Newman of Flushing, Michigan (Flushing) and freshman forward Claire Baguley of Ada, Michigan (Forest Hills Central) each hit a fourth-quarter 3. Newman scored five of her 10 points during the fourth quarter.
Thrilling a joyous home crowd, Hope secured its 14th outright MIAA championship and 18th overall. The Flying Dutch will host the semifinals and finals of the MIAA Tournament as the top seed on Friday-Saturday, February 28-29 at DeVos Fieldhouse.
"A little overwhelming right now, but it's awesome," Schoonveld said. "We talked in the locker room about just feelings that we had last year coming off with a tough end of season, didn't win the league. We're just super pumped to win it today and keep moving forward."
The victory gave Hope its seventh unbeaten MIAA campaign in team history, all under Morehouse. The Flying Dutch have gone 16-0 five times and 14-0 twice.
Also, Hope finished a regular season unbeaten for the fourth time in team history, all during Morehouse's tenure.
"I'm just really excited for this team and this program," Newman said. "This is something we've been working toward since last March when we ended our season in a way we didn't plan on ending it. We are really just focused on taking this in, acknowledging the success we had today, then come Monday, get back at it for the tournament."
Hope will play the winner of the Wednesday, February 26 Calvin University-Alma College quarterfinal on Friday at 7:30 p.m.