KPC NEWS SERVICE
ANGOLA — Here’s another first for the Trine University women’s basketball program: go dancing.
For the first time in school history, No. 18 Trine won the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament championship by beating Calvin College, 49-42, on Saturday. As outright conference champions, Trine will compete in its first NCAA Division III tournament in school history.
“Before the season even started, we’ve all had a feeling that it would be a special year,” Trine senior Taylor Cole said. “We knew we had the pieces coming back and the girls coming in as freshmen or transfers to put the puzzle together.”
“We talk about knowledge being power,” Trine coach Ryan Gould said. “If we know what’s going on, we’re able to stop it. And our work ethic is obviously something that’s carried us a lot through this year.”
For a team that’s led by its defense, the Thunder knew they had to limit Calvin’s all-conference guard. Though it’s not represented in the stat lines, Cassidy Williams’ 1-on-1 defense throughout the year has been a benefit to the team, so guarding Calvin’s Ali Spayde was nothing new for her responsibilities.
Despite finishing with 10 points, Spayde was limited to 4-of-17 shooting from the field, turned the ball over five times and didn’t have any assists.
“She’s always the one that’s guarding the best player on the team,” Cole said of Williams. “I think it helps that our coaches have us prepared for it everyday.”
The Thunder shot poorly from the field in the first quarter (4-for-13 field goals), and both sides became more frustrated in the second when they remained tied at 18-18 for just over 5 1/2 minutes.
With less than a minute left until halftime, Calvin took a late lead by converting on a fast-break layup to make the score 24-22 at the break.
Down 29-25 in the third, Trine’s defense stepped up, and Hayley Martin got some key rebounds following missed shots by the Knights. Montana Martin drove for a quick two of her own to retake the lead at 30-29, and the Thunder finished the quarter with an 11-0 run after Hayley Martin made a pair of free throws.
Calvin brought it back within one, but an assist from Ashley Elliott to Brandi Dawson in the paint gave the Thunder a score to make it 40-37 midway through the fourth.
Spayde’s second basket of the quarter made it a 42-40 game, but commanding scores from Dawson and Williams sparked a late run. Hayley Martin was fouled as she made her final shot with under a minute left in the game, sealing the victory.
“We know that we struggled, but we always find a way to get in each other’s heads to get to play like we know how to play,” Dawson said.
Hayley Martin finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double performance. Dawson scored 11 points and had five rebounds, and Williams scored nine and had a team-high three steals.