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History of MIAA
The Game of All Games
A scriptwriter could not have outlined a better plot. It was dubbed by sportswriters as "The Miracle on Eighth Street." Journalists with a penchant toward analogy noted the "Wonderful World of Disney is not in California or Florida, but in Holland, Michigan." What you had was a national championship won by a Hope College women's basketball team before a delirious home crowd in dramatic come-from-behind fashion on free throws by a player with a Hollywood name.
The first national women's team championship won by a member of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) was achieved in 1990 by a Hope College basketball team that didn't have to travel more than a mile from campus during their entire tournament run.
One-by-one, teams from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kentucky, and finally New York, ventured to the land of the Dutch where they succumbed to a spirited Hope team.
After winning the school’s first-ever MIAA conference championship, the Flying Dutch were invited to host the four-team NCAA division III Great Lakes regional tournament. This represented a major challenge because the Dow Center on the Hope campus was not equipped as a spectator facility. “Imaginative” seating arrangements, including chairs on the upper-level running track, provided more than 800 fans an opportunity to watch the Flying Dutch defeat St. Benedict, Minn., 73-60, and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 68-67.
It was back to the Dow Center a week later for quarterfinal action against Buena Vista, Iowa. Seating was increased to serve the more than 1,100 fans who witnessed Hope’s come-from-behind 85-79 overtime victory.
And then came the Final Four tournament. “We’d like Hope College to serve as host,” advised the NCAA.
With only a week for planning, but with plenty of support from the community, the Division III championship tournament was moved to the city-owned Holland Civic Center. Even though Hope students were on spring break, the legendary basketball palace was packed with fans. And coach Sue Wise’s Flying Dutch did not disappoint anyone.
The stage was set for the national championship game with a semi-final victory over Centre, Ky., 75-62. Top-ranked St. John Fisher, N.Y. provided the opposition. Could this team of Flying Dutch miracle workers meet the challenge once again?
The teams were tied 32-32 early in the second half when the roof appeared to cave-in on the Flying Dutch. The New Yorkers scored 20 unanswered points over a seven minute period and were on their way to national glory.
But someone forgot to tell coach Wise and her Flying Dutch that you don’t rally from huge deficits in a national championship game. Point-by-point, Hope whittled away at the lead until Dina Disney’s three-point basket tied the score with only 13 seconds remaining to play.
St. John Fisher worked the clock for a final shot, but the Lady Cardinals were called for an offensive foul. It was Hope’s ball with five seconds left.
That’s when the miracle-of-miracles occurred. Hope’s inbound pass was intercepted by a St. John Fisher player, but just as quickly it was flicked loose by Hope junior Lissa Nienhuis. In the mad scramble for the ball Disney was fouled, but there was no time left on the clock. After several arduous minutes, the referees ruled that Disney had been fouled before the buzzer sounded.
The senior guard with the Hollywood name, tears flowing from her eyes, sank both free throws and Hope had its first nation team championship, 65-63.
Not bad for a quintet which never left that dear old town of Holland, Michigan.
Confessions from a realistic, hopeful fan.
Eva Dean Folkert is co-Director of Athletics at Hope College. She graduated from Hope in 1983. In 1990 she joined hundreds of Hope basketball fans on an epic journey to a national championship. What follows is an article she penned for the Hope College alumni newspaper in April, 1990.
The man sitting next to me was surely anticipating a phenomenal moment.
He turned to me with a sincere, have-hope smile and yelled above the fever-pitched din, “Do you believe in miracles?” For a minute there, I thought he looked a little like Al Michaels.
I wanted to believe but a twinge of realism kept pulling me back. Seventeen ticks left on the clock, Hope’s Flying Dutch still down by three, and St. John Fisher was relentlessly pressuring the ball on defense in this NCAA division III women’s basketball national championship game.
Come, on, any basketball realist would have concurred that Hope’s chances of hoisting the golden trophy didn’t look good. It wasn’t impossible, but it wasn’t probable either. My head agreed—brains are supposed to be rational; my heart didn’t—hearts are supposed to hope.
Now I’m no pessimist, mind you. I was still creaming “come on’s” and “let’s go’s” with the other 2,282 people in the Holland Civic Center. But you know how we fans can be. I’m sure you do it yourself.
When our team is fast-breaking circles around the opponent, we clap and high-five the guy next to us until our palms turn red. But when the proverbial going gets tough, and then tougher, we begin to secretly mope, sulk, complain, and eventually blame it on the refs. We’re fickle, let’s face it. But true fans never give up. I truly wasn’t giving up: I was just being realistic.
“Okay,” my hopeful heart said to my realistic head, “consider this. Not less than nine minutes ago, Hope was down by 20 points. Now they’re only behind by three. What you have just witnessed is only one angel wing shy of a true miracle. Just four points, some more pressure defense, and 16 seconds, and this miracle is gonna fly.”
“Be real,” my head retorted. “Do you really think St. John Fisher is going to miss again? Their cold spell is about to end. The law of averages says it will. And when it does, they’ll be ahead by five or six point. That’s just too much to overcome with only a couple seconds to go.”
I wondered, of course, how many other fans were having this wretched anatomical debate. I looked around at the crowd. Hardly a soul was sitting. Hands with white knuckles were wringing rolled-up programs. Yes, I was certain that I wasn’t the only one going through this head-heart volley. I thought I saw that guy’s shirt move over his pounding heart and his fingers were massaging his aching temple. No doubt. His head and heart were in communication, too.
The clock continued its merciless countdown. 16…15…14…13… Incredible. Dina Disney swished a perfect three-pointer. The score is tied.
“Now won’t you believe me?” heart cried.
“But Fisher has the last shot,” head replied. 11…10…9…8…7…6…5…Oh my. Dina Disney just caused an offensive charging foul. Hope’s got the ball back.
“We’re gonna win,” heart rejoiced.
“It’s not over yet,” head proclaimed. 4…3…2…1…1/2…Unbelievable. Dina Disney was fouled. She’s going to the free throw line to shoot one-and-one.
“She hasn’t missed from the line in 16 games. She gonna make it,” heart cheered.
“Please don’t miss now,” head pleaded.
Well, of course, you all know about the storybook happy ending by now. As Dina Disney walked away from the line after making her game-winning free throw, tears flooding her eyes with joy, teammates squeezing her with the same joy. I felt a lump in my throat, too. At that moment I knew I’d never see another game like that again in my lifetime.
So, do I believe in miracles?