by Greg Chandler
Down by nine points with less than five minutes remaining Saturday night, the Hope College women's basketball team fought back to keep their season alive and move on to the sectional round in the NCAA Division III tournament.
The top-ranked Flying Dutch outscored a feisty Illinois Wesleyan team 14-2 down the stretch to pull out a thrilling 72-69 victory in front of 2,007 fans at DeVos Fieldhouse for their 29th win without a loss this season.
Hope will play Baldwin-Wallace University (Ohio) next in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 13 at a site to be determined.
The Titans, who led for more than 27 minutes of the game, saw their season end with a record of 20-9.
"We're proud of our players. I thought they were very resilient today," Hope coach Brian Morehouse said. "We had a great start, 13-4, we had a great finish, 14-2, and in between, I thought Illinois Wesleyan outplayed us the whole way. They just took it to us, other than those two runs. We're very grateful to get the win."
Hope trailed 65-58 when junior guard Kenedy Schoonveld of Zeeland, Michigan (Holland Christian) pulled her teammates together during a timeout with 4:41 remaining.
"I said 'we've gotta stay tight, this is the moment, we're hitting adversity, this is the moment where we've gotta stick together, and whatever happens, just stick together,'" Schoonveld said. "At that point, we were going all out for each other and we were okay with what happened … win or lose, those are my girls and we're going to go out and battle together."
The Titans' Brooke Lansford scored shortly after the timeout to give Illinois Wesleyan its largest lead of the night at 67-58.
Then the Flying Dutch caught fire, scoring eight points in a span of 57 seconds to tie the game. Junior Lauren Newman of Flushing, Michigan (Flushing) and Schoonveld hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions. Junior Olivia Voskuil of Holland, Michigan (Holland Christian) converted a steal into a layup that tied the game at 67-all with 2:12 left in the game.
Illinois Wesleyan regained the lead at 69-67 with 1:59 left on a basket by Kendall Sosa, who led the Titans with a game-high 32 points. Schoonveld scored again with 1:11 remaining to pull Hope even at 69-69.
After a steal by junior Ashleigh Thomas of Shelby Township, Michigan (Macomb Lutheran North), Hope executed a perfect inbounds play out of a timeout to take the lead for good.
Senior Arika Tolbert of Lathrup Village, Michigan (Detroit Country Day) found Schoonveld left of the basket, and the MIAA's Most Valuable Player put it in off the glass to give the Flying Dutch a 71-69 lead with 30.5 seconds remaining.
"That's a play we've never run before," Schoonveld said. "That was drawn really quick by Mo in the timeout. It was a matter of composure – take a deep breath, we knew it was tied so we had a little bit of room. We just had to stay composed, hit each other on screens and just execute what Mo had drawn up."
The Hope defense forced a missed shot on the Titans' next possession and Thomas grabbed the rebound. Voskuil, who finished with a career-high 17 points, sank one of two free throws with 7.3 seconds to play to give the Flying Dutch a 72-69 lead.
Schoonveld then blocked a 3-point shot attempt by IWU's Samantha Munroe as time ran out.
Morehouse paid tribute to the Illinois Wesleyan team and their longtime head coach, Mia Smith, after the game.
"When the brackets came out, there weren't many teams I didn't want to see in our pod, and Illinois Wesleyan was one of them, just because I know how well she prepares her team," Morehouse said. "She's won in this gym, she won a national championship in this gym (in 2012), and I just knew they would have a great plan."
Schoonveld finished with a season-high 20 points, seven of them in the final four minutes. She also grabbed six rebounds. Voskuil added six rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots to go along with her career-high scoring effort.
Tolbert contributed four assists, two steals and much valued senior leadership during her 18 minutes off the bench.
In addition to Sosa's 32-point effort, the Titans got 13 points from Sydney Shanks and 11 from Munroe. Riley Brovelli grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
The 69 points were the most Hope had allowed all season long. The Flying Dutch came into the game as the nation's top scoring defense, allowing their opponents to score only 41.3 points per game, including 18 in Friday's opening round win over Grove City (Pa.) College.
'That's what we're going to see from this point on," Morehouse said. "We're not holding people to 20 anymore, we're not holding people to 30, 40. Everybody has four or five people that can score on a lot of different levels. We've got to score the ball to keep advancing and play as good as defense as we possibly can."