Hope women edge rival Trine again, will play for DIII national title Saturday

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

It was 736 days ago when the Hope women's basketball team, heading to practice for the next day's Sweet 16 game, learned that the season was over. Hope was 29-0, but there would be no shot at a national championship.

The following season, the news came sooner, before the end of the season. The NCAA had again canceled all Division III championships. Hope was 16-0, but there would be no shot at a national championship.

Finally, there will be a shot a national championship.

Hope's Sydney Muller drives to the basket against Trine on Thursday night.

Fifth-year senior guard Kenedy Schoonveld, a national player-of-the-year candidate, had 15 points, senior guard Sydney Muller had 13 and junior guard Ella McKinney had 12 as Hope edged out league rival Trine, 57-52, in the Division III Final Four on Thursday night at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse in Pittsburgh.

Hope (31-1) will play Wisconsin-Whitewater (28-4), in the championship game at 2 Saturday. Wisconsin-Whitewater beat Amherst, 55-51, in the earlier national semifinal.

The meeting with Trine was the fourth on the year for Hope, which won three of the meetings — including in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship game. Trine won in January, ending Hope's 66-game winning streak, which dated to the 2018-19 season. All four games were decided by single-digit points — nine, eight, four and, on Thursday, five.

"Our league was outstanding this year," Hope coach Brian Morehouse said. "Tonight was just another showcase of our league being great."

Hope led, 47-36, after three quarters, and at one point in the game led by 18 points, only to watch Trine make a game of it in the fourth.

Trine's Kayla Wildman hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 52 with 3 minutes, 35 seconds left, with Muller giving Hope the lead again with a jumper 22 seconds later. Neither team scored for nearly the next three minutes, before Hope senior forward Olivia Voskuil made a jumper to make it a four-point game with 26 seconds left.

Voskuil then picked up a steal nine seconds left, forcing Trine to foul — but it had to foul three times before putting Hope in the bonus, eating eight crucial seconds off the clock.

"You've been preparing for your whole life to step up in big moments," Voskuil said. 

With nine seconds left, McKinney (Haslett) drained one of two free throws, and Trine's last possession ended on a missed 3.

Voskuil (Holland Christian) had nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks to go with six points. Schoonveld (Holland Christian), senior guard Kate Majerus and senior forward Hannah Smith (Midland) each also had two blocks, senior guard Kasey DeSmit (Hudsonville) added three steals, and Muller (Grand Rapids Christian) had two steals.

Rachel Stewart had 16 points to lead Trine, which finished 27-4, Hope accounting for three of the losses. 

Trine's big rally nearly helped it avoid No. 3.

"Just when you start to feel good about yourself ... then you don't," Morehouse said. 

"Great runback by them."

Wisconsin-Whitewater is playing in its second national-championship game, having lost in the finals in 2013 at DeVos Fieldhouse, Hope's home arena in Holland. Hope is seeking its third national title, first since 2007.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984