Calvin’s first half woes allow Hope a share of MIAA women’s basketball title


Reid Petro

Photo courtesy Miles Kuperus.

The Knights hadn’t given up 47 points in a half since 2001, but Saturday afternoon, the Dutch’s offense proved to be too much to handle.

After digging themselves into a 26-point hole at halftime, 47-21, the Knights’ second-half comeback attempt fell flat, 65-50.

Hope’s victory means that nationally-ranked No. 2 Calvin and No. 3 Hope will be named MIAA co-champions.

After winning a coin flip after the game, Calvin will host the MIAA championship game next Saturday, barring a loss in the first round of the tournament.

The game’s 3,443 attendees broke a DeVos Fieldhouse women’s basketball record and ranked as the eighth-highest in NCAA women’s basketball history.

Most of those 3,443 attendees left the arena pleased with the outcome: despite narrowing the gap to 12 points with four minutes remaining, Calvin was unable to finish the miracle comeback.

“Hope’s one of the best teams in the country,” began Calvin coach John Ross. “You just can’t get down by 26 in the first half and expect to come back.”

Senior Carissa Verkaik, Calvin’s leading scorer with 19 points, blamed the loss on Calvin’s first half defense.

“We didn’t play our defense in the first half and that’s what made us struggle,” she said. “We were sagging off and we were being really hesitant, so they were able to pass the ball around really easily.”

Hope shot 63 percent in the first half and went 5 for 8 from three-point range. Calvin shot only 32 percent and went 1 for 8 from three.

Sophomore Kayla Engelhard, with 10 points, also highlighted defense as a weak point for the Knights.

“We have to refocus on our defensive principles and get back to what we do,” she said. “We just didn’t get that done today.”

Despite going the whole first half with no rebounds, Verkaik also tied Calvin’s all-time rebounding record with 1,034 rebounds in her four years at Calvin. She’ll have a chance to pass Lisa Winkle’s record on Wednesday.

“I’m not sure how you hold Carissa Verkaik to zero rebounds,” said Hope coach Brian Morehouse. “Rebounding-wise, I thought that’s one of the reasons we lost the last game and one of the reasons we won this game, simple as that,” he said.

Calvin won the first matchup of the season in Grand Rapids, 64-59 on Jan. 12.

But Morehouse also highlighted that Hope’s stellar first half dug too big a hole for Calvin to escape.

“In the second half, we didn’t play so great on the offensive end, but we made up for it in the first half when we shot 63 percent.”

Hope shot only 17 percent in the second half and went 1 for 9 from three.

“I should have told us to keep the accelerator down on the offensive end,” he continued. “I got a little tentative, which I think got over to my players. We didn’t run things as crisply as we did in the first half.”

Both teams now turn to the MIAA tournament next week, where the two teams could meet for a third time this season in the tournament championship game.