by Alan Babbitt
As the final seconds of the third quarter ticked away, Kasey DeSmit found herself at the top of the 3-point arc with a quick decision to make for the Hope College women's basketball team.
She chose wisely, leading to an easy basket for a teammate and illustrating the growth of a young and promising group of Flying Dutch during a 93-44 victory against fourth-place Saint Mary's College.
DeSmit, pictured left, resisted hoisting a difficult shot from 22 feet against a double team. The freshman from Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville HS) whipped a pass to Natalee Kott, pictured right, underneath the basket for a wide-open short jumper before the quarter ended.
"That play was a real extension of her growth of not trying to make something happen that wasn't there," head coach Brian Morehouse said of DeSmit. "Relax. Survey. Find the open player. She knew somebody was open because two were guarding one.
"Kott's played in a lot of big games, too. The game does not get too big for these two. They have been improving as the year's gone on."
A team that started the season with just one senior is now 15-2 on the season and 7-1 after the first half of Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association play. The Flying Dutch — ranked seventh in this week's Women's Basketball Coaches Association poll and ninth by D3hoops.com — are in sole possession of second place in the MIAA standings behind Trine.
Kott was one of three Hope players to score in double figures during a balanced attack against Saint Mary's (7-10, 4-4 MIAA). Seven Flying Dutch netted at least eight points.
The Flying Dutch shot a season-high 54.4 percent from the field (37-68).
Hope never trailed after jumping out to a 27-5 first-quarter lead. The Flying Dutch's 56-17 halftime lead marked their second-highest scoring half of the season.
"We've been talking about being energized in our runs from end to end, having our bigs run hard down the middle, and our wings sprinting instead of jogging," Morehouse said. "I thought it made all the difference in the world."
Senior forward Francesca Buchanan of Grant, Michigan (Sparta HS) recorded a team-high 12 points with perfect shooting from the field (4-4) and free-throw line (2-2). She doubled her career 3-point total with two during the first half.
Sophomore point guard Lauren Newman of Flushing, Michigan (Flushing) chipped in 11 points, seven of which came during the first quarter.
Kott, the freshman guard from Manistee, Michigan (Manistee), finished with a career-high 10 points.
The Flying Dutch also received nine points apiece from sophomore guard Kenedy Schoonveld of Zeeland, Michigan (Holland Christian) and sophomore forward Rose Thompson of Coopersville, Michigan (Unity Christian) and eight points apiece from DeSmit and sophomore forward Olivia Voskuil of Holland, Michigan (Holland Christian).
Hope blocked eight shots — its second-highest total of the season. Saint Mary's shot just 30.0 percent from the field (18-60).
"Defensively we're getting better as we're getting older," Morehouse said.
The Flying Dutch's next game is Wednesday, January 23 at third-place Albion. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.