On Saturday afternoon, March 18th, in front of a sellout crowd at SpringfieldCollege's Blake Arena, the Hope College Flying Dutch captured the 2006 NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament Championship, defeating the Huskies from the University of Southern Maine, 69-56.
It is the second NCAA Division III Women's Basketball title in Hope's program history, as the Flying Dutch last won in 1990, but first under 10-year head coach Brian Morehouse. In winning the NCAA crown, Hope ran off an impressive 30-game winning streak while posting a school-record 33 wins on the campaign, as the Flying Dutch snapped Southern Maine's 24-game winning streak.
Coach Morehouse, in the post-game press conference said, "SpringfieldCollege has been an extremely tremendous host,...I could not imagine more of a well-run tournament." He later added about the game, "All I had to do was push a couple of buttons and the players did all of the hard work. I love my players, I love my coaches, and this season has been a great journey."
Hope was led by senior guard Bria Ebels (Holland, Mich.), who was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player. Ebels did it all for the Flying Dutch in the win over Southern Maine, scoring a team-best 18 points while adding six rebounds, four assists, and four steals. In the two Final Four games, Ebels scored 33 points and totaled nine steals on the way to being named the MOP of the weekend.
Joining Ebels on the All-Tournament Team this weekend was Hope junior guard Julie Henderson (Grand Haven, Mich.), Southern Maine junior forward Ashley Marble (Topsfield, Maine) and senior forward Megan Myles (Auburn, Maine), and Scranton junior guard Taryn Mellody (Dunmore, Pa.).
Southern Maine ends its outstanding 2005-'06 season with a 32-2 overall mark as this was the Huskies' second-straight trip to the Final Four and fifth overall under head coach Gary FiField's 19-year tenure.
Southern Maine's Megan Myles led all scorers in the championship contest with 23 points as she was just one rebound short of a double-double, with nine caroms. Ashley Marble grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds while adding eight points before fouling out late in the game. Marble averaged a total of 16 rebounds on the weekend as she collected 17 last night (Mar. 17) against Hardin-Simmons. Myles scored 23 points in both games for the Huskies this weekend.
The first half of this championship tilt was neck-and-neck, as neither team led by more than six points as the score was 33-30 in favor of the Flying Dutch heading into the locker room. The beginning stages of the second half were no different, as Southern Maine pulled to within one (41-40) with 12:09 left in regulation off of a Marble lay-up.
At that moment, however, the tide of the game switched to Hope's favor, as the Flying Dutch went on an extended 21-12 run over the next 10 minutes of play to build a 10-point lead, at 62-52, with just 2:09 left on the clock. That second-half run would seal the championship for Hope, as the Flying Dutch won by a final of 13 points, 69-56.
Commenting on the championship bout in the post-game press conference, Southern Maine senior forward Megan Myles added, "It hurts to end your career on a loss and so close to what you dream of, but as coach said, we can't let one game define the season. I feel fortunate to be a part of something so special."
Southern Maine's Head Coach Gary FiField, commenting about HopeCollege said, "They are as good of a Division III team as I have ever seen,...they could beat a lot of Division I teams, they are that good."