The Flying Dutchmen ended up tied at both halftime and regulation, but fell short in a disappointing overtime period against relentless Penn State Behrend, 70-66, in front of a crowd of 2,077.
"In this business, you don't get a second chance very often and we had one," Hope coach Matt Neil said after watching his team rebound from a nine-point deficit midway through the second half to force OT.
"We just didn't take advantage of it."
Hope (20-8) completed its season with a two-game slide on its home floor.
The Dutchmen claimed the 37th Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association regular-season title in school history, including a pair of definitive wins against rival Calvin College. In the MIAA tournament, Calvin shocked Hope, 78-53, last Saturday, sending the Flying Dutchmen into the NCAA tournament as an at-large selection.
"It's a game of runs," Neil said of the back-and-forth nature of the matchup against Behrend, resulting in 14 lead changes and 15 ties, including a 58-58 stalemate at the end of regulation. "We had 24 turnovers, that's unacceptable. This game, they deserved to win.
"I thought they were tough," he said of the Lions (24-4), "and we didn't respond. That's unfortunate because we talked all week long about how to handle (Behrend's defensive pressure). Over the course of the last six games, we didn't play together and we have to learn from that. The floor is a classroom."
Nate VanArendonk, a 6-foot-10 senior center from Grand Haven (Grand Haven HS), led the Flying Dutchmen with 17 points in what might've been his final collegiate game.
"I wouldn't trade my experience here for anything," said VanArendonk, who earned All-MIAA First Team honors this season. "I didn't expect me to fall in love as much with this team as I did. These guys were my brothers."
The high point of the night for VanArendonk against Behrend was going on a personal 7-0 scoring run to end the first half and forge a 35-35 tie. He had a strong inside post move, a tap of a Gardner miss as part of a three-point play and a mid-air jumper off an inbounds pass from Eidson with four-tenths of a second remaining that splashed through the net as the buzzer sounded.
VanArendonk led all scorers with 13 first-half points on 5-for-5 shooting from the field and 3-for-3 from the foul line.
Alex Eidson, a sophomore guard from Grand Haven and the Dutchmen's leading scorer, struggled from the field. He shot 2 of 10, including 1 of 8 from 3-point range, and finished with 12 points.