Calvin Captures MIAA Tournament Title With Win Over Hope
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The Knights left no doubt about the MIAA Tournament championship with a 65-43 victory over rival Hope on Saturday. The MIAA Tournament title is Calvin's second straight including its sixth overall. The Knights (25-1) receive the MIAA's automatic bid to the NCAA III Tournament next week. The NCAA III Tournament field will be announced on Monday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
In Saturday's win over Hope (22-5), Calvin came out of the gate with undeniable force on both ends of the floor. Calvin jumped out to a 17-0 lead and did not allow Hope to score until the 9:09 mark of the first half. Freshmen Kayla Engelhard set the tone on the game's opening possession with a steal of Liz Ellis. Engelhard's fast break lay-up jumpstarted a Knights scoring run that left the fans of the Maroon and Gold gathered inside Van Noord Arena pleasantly stunned.
Carissa Verkaik fueled the Knights offense in the early-going. Verkaik knocked down a turn-around jumper and then assisted Jill Thomas in transition to have the Knights on top 8-0, forcing a timeout from Hope Head Coach Brian Morehouse.
Out of the timeout, Verkaik continued to make her mark on the game, this time on the defensive end. On consecutive defensive possessions, Verkaik swatted Hope shots to keep the Dutch scoreless. Off a baseline triple from Thomas, the Knights were on top 17-0 before Hope's Maddie Burnett hit a mid-range jumper to end the Dutch's scoreless streak over halfway into the first half.
Even with Hope on the board, the Knights continued to roll. Engelhard sank a three-pointer off a skip pass and Thomas followed that up with another baseline three-ball to move the score to 26-3 with less than six minutes remaining. The Knights coasted into halftime on top 32-11.
The second half resembled the first in its early stages. Engelhard drilled a jumper and Verkaik blocked Ellis on the perimeter in less than two minutes. Hope was able to cut the deficit to 15 points four minutes into the half with a flurry of three point plays from Maddie Burnett and Courtney Kust.
Despite some improvement in the Hope attack, Calvin was able to hold the Dutch at bay. Engelhard had seven points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, including a running and-1 hook shot. Midway through the half, the Knights led by seventeen.
From there, the Knights would cruise to a convincing victory b a final score of 65-43. Leading the way for Calvin was Verkaik with 15 points, 19 rebounds and nine blocks, one shy of a triple double. Joining her in double figures were Thomas and Engelhard as Thomas netted 13 points and Engelhard 12.
Hope was led by Maddie Burnett and Courtney Kust with 12 points apiece.
Calvin limited Hope to 22.2 percent field goal shooting and held a 55-47 rebounding edge.
"We really stepped it up defensively tonight," said Calvin Coach John Ross after the game. "Our focus was really good."
"We definitely came to play. Our defense set the tone," added Verkaik.
Calvin is now 31-14 all-time in the MIAA Tournament including 8-0 in MIAA Tournament games at Van Noord Arena.
The Knights will be making their 13th appearance in the NCAA III Tournament including their sixth under ninth-year head coach John Ross. Calvin is 15-12 all-time in NCAA III Tournament play.