ANGOLA, IND. -- The Trine University women's basketball team claimed their second Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament Championship in three years with a 70-65 double overtime win against Hope (Mich.) College at the MTI Center.
It also marks the second MIAA Tournament title in the history of the program since joining the conference in 2004. The Thunder captured their first championship during the 2016-17 season.
Trine had three players score in double figures, led by senior Cassidy Williams (Archbold, Ohio/Archbold) with a game-high 20 points on seven-of-13 shooting (53.8 percent), including six-of-eight (75.0 percent) at the free-throw line. Williams was also one of three Trine players to grab a game-tying high seven rebounds. Senior Brandi Dawson (Garrett, Ind./Garrett) was second in scoring with 14 points to go along with seven boards. Senior Montana Martin (Columbia City, Ind./Churubusco) rounded out the high scorers with 11 points.
In addition, sophomore Shay Herbert (Pinckney, Mich./Pinckney) tied Williams and Dawson with seven rebounds in the win.
As a team, Trine shot 40.0 percent (22-of-55) from the field and got to the free-throw line 34 times where the Thunder converted 24 of those attempts for a 70.6 shot percentage.
Both offenses got off to a slow start in the game with the first points not coming until the 7:39 mark of the first quarter on a pair of Hope free-throws. Hope (23-4) added a pair of baskets to its total before Trine (25-2) got on the scoreboard with a three-pointer by junior Katy Steers (Portage, Ind./Portage) at the 5:07 mark that made the score, 6-3. Trailing by a point with just under two minutes to go in the period, Trine capped the scoring with the final three points on one-of-two free-throws by freshman Tara Bieniewicz (Chesterfield, Mich./Dakota) and two freebies by freshman Kelsy Taylor (Louisville, Ky./New Albany) to end the period and gave Trine an 11-9 advantage after the first 10 minutes of action.
Trine started the second quarter with six straight points, four of those by Dawson, to extend the margin to eight points, 17-9, with 8:47 remaining in the half. The Hope offense then picked up and outscored Trine, 22-8, the remainder of the quarter and included a seven-point margin for the Dutch after a three-pointer with a little more than a minute to go. Bieniewicz then connected on one-of-two free-throws before the end of the frame to end the scoring and make it a six-point game at the break, 31-25.
Hope led for the entire third quarter which began with a three-point play by the Dutch to bolster the advantage to nine points in the opening minute. Trine rallied with nine straight points that was capped by a three-point play by Steers to even the score at 34-34. But momentum then swung back in favor of Hope as the visitors answered with an 11-2 scoring run to go back up by nine points, 45-36, at the 2:49 mark. The seesaw battle continued as the Thunder rallied again with a streak of seven points to end the quarter and narrow the gap to 45-43 heading into the fourth.
Trine continued its run into the fourth quarter with a layup by Williams that tied the game at 45-45. The Thunder eventually took the advantage and led by three points on two occasions, including a 51-48 margin with just over four minutes left in regulation after another layup by Williams. Hope then rattled off seven straight points to take a four-point advantage, 55-51, with 2:35 to go. The Dutch would have a two-point edge with under a minute left when a layup by Williams evened the game at 57-57 with 33 seconds on the clock. Trine then looked for a possible game-winning basket after a 30-second violation by Hope, but the final shot attempt by the Thunder rattled out as time expired, sending the game into overtime.
In the first overtime, both teams scored three points with Trine's coming on a free-throw by Martin and then a jumper by Dawson to make it a 60-57 contest with just over a minute-and-a-half left. Hope then scored the final three points of the frame, all at the free-throw line, to knot the game at 60-60. The Thunder would once again be set up with the final shot attempt looking to end the game, but the shot again missed its mark, forcing a second overtime period.
Hope scored the opening points of overtime number two with a triple, but the lead was erased by a pair of free-throws by Martin and Williams to give Trine a one-point lead, 64-63, with 2:49 remaining. The lead then swapped again on Hope's ensuing possession with a pair of free-throws that made the score, 65-64, in favor of the visitors. A layup by Williams on Trine's next trip down the floor gave the Thunder the lead for good as the combination of made free-throws and missed shots by Hope down the stretch, sealed the victory of the Thunder who went on to win by the final of 70-65.
Trine will receive an automatic bid to the 2019 NCAA Division III National Tournament as the MIAA Tournament Champions. The Thunder will have to wait to find out who their opponent will be and where the game will be played with the entire tournament field scheduled to be announced on Monday, Feb. 25 at 2:30 p.m.