Hope wins NCAA DIII WBB national title

Spencer Thomas | Staff Writer | Hope players celebrate after beating Wisconsin-Whitewater in Saturday’s NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship title game at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.

Grace Heidinger and Spencer Thomas | Staff Writers

March 24, 2022

This past weekend in Pittsburgh, the NCAA crowned a champion for its Division III Women’s Basketball Championship for the first time since 2019.

With a 71-58 win over Wisconsin-Whitewater in Saturday’s title game at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse, Hope College captured its third-ever national title and its first since 2006, capping off an impressive 32-1 season.

The tournaments were canceled in both 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19, which only added to the powerful emotions throughout the weekend.

Play opened with semifinal action on Thursday afternoon, when UW-Whitewater – arguably the most alliterative team in the country – bested Amherst 55-51.

Only a handful of points separated the teams throughout the 40 minutes of play, but UW-Whitewater’s performance at the free-throw line – which included hitting all six free-throw attempts in the first quarter – helped secure the win, especially in the game’s waning moments.

With three seconds left, Kacie Carollo knocked down two free throws to extend the Warhawks’ lead from two to four. Carollo, whose mom is UW-Whitewater’s head coach, put the game out of reach and pushed the Warhawks past the Mammoths.

“When your daughter is on the free-throw line to send you to the National Championship Game, you want your player to rise in those moments,” said Head Coach Keri Carollo. “But for her to be my daughter, [it] makes it even more special.”

Thursday’s night cap featured an anticipated clash between Hope and Trine University, conference foes that met for the fourth time on the season.

From tipoff, Hope controlled both ends of the floor. The Flying Dutch opened the game on a commanding 8-0 run and led by as many as 18 (41-23) deep into the third quarter.

However, Trine didn’t back down from the challenge. The Thunder managed to come all the way back and tie the score at 52 with 3:35 remaining in the game.

Hope quickly reclaimed the lead 22 seconds later, and a two-point jumper from Olivia Voskuil with 26 seconds left put the game on ice. The Flying Dutch fended off the Thunder’s comeback attempt, ultimately securing a 57-52 victory and a spot in the title game.

Saturday’s championship game between UW-Whitewater and Hope saw high-flying offenses go toe-to-toe for the first time all season.

The Warhawks wasted no time setting a tone, hardly using any of the shot clock on most of their possessions. Thanks to a layup from Aleah Grundahl, they led 16-14 at the end of the opening quarter.

A turning point came early in the second quarter, when the Warhawks had a 23-18 and lots of momentum.

With just over seven minutes remaining in the quarter, UW-Whitewater’s Johanna Taylor missed a layup attempt. Hope grabbed the rebound, and a subsequent 3-pointer from Kennedy Schoonveld cut Hope’s deficit to a single possession.

The squads traded baskets, playing a visually thrilling, end-to-end style of basketball. At halftime, the Flying Dutch and Warhawks were tied at 34.

Despite the even score, astute fans might have noticed the disparity in scoring distribution between the two teams. While Hope was seeing massive contributions from bench and role players, UW-Whitewater was not.

The Warhawks didn’t have a single point from a non-starter in the opening half, with 28 of the 34 points coming from just three players.

The lack of depth scoring eventually caught up in the second half. Hope opened the third quarter on a 6-0 run. From there on, the Flying Dutch preserved the lead for the rest of the game.

Hope’s Sydney Muller, who was named Tournament Most Outstanding Player, complimented tenacious defense with 18 points. Ella McKinney added 21 points off the bench for the Flying Dutch.

Despite a valiant effort, the Warhawks ran out of gas. When all was said and done, Hope had outscored UW-Whitewater 29-2 in bench points en route to a 13-point victory.

When asked what the difference was in the second half, Hope Head Coach Brian Morehouse attributed his team’s success to their play on the boards. The Flying Dutch held a 28-19 edge in that category.

“[At halftime], we just said that if we outrebound in the second half, then we’re gonna win,” Morehouse said, wearing the net that he got to cut down like a necklace. “We’ve stood up when we needed to stand up, and today we did it in the second half, and that’s why we get to cut down the nets.”

The championship had the Morehouse family name imprinted all over it. In addition to Brian, his daughter (Meg) provided valuable minutes off the bench in the win. His father (Dean) has been an assistant coach with the program since the 2000-01 season.