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  • Mitch Galloway

Scheduling error headlines women's basketball playoff contest

Sure, Olivet College women’s basketball is the four-seed. Sure, Hope College is the mighty dog -- the No. 1-seed of this nine-team kennel that is the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) conference. Oh, sure.

But this dog can bark, too. And when someone puts a leash on this dog, taking the fight out of her growl, this Comet sheep dog will more than likely be upset. Like now, when the outsiders -- the dissenters -- have written them off.

Case in point, the way the MIAA displayed this link -- -- showing Hope College (24-1, 15-1 MIAA), which plays Olivet Friday, Feb. 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the DeVos Fieldhouse in Holland, already advancing to the conference finals before the Friday semifinals contest even begins.

Literally, the Olivet's women’s basketball team (13-12, 9-7) has been written off by the MIAA website, or, as one local official puts it, by Hope College officials.

“That isn't the MIAA's fault,” Olivet College Sports Information Director Geoff Henson said through email Feb. 23. “It is Hope. (T)hey put the game on the schedule page on its website, which goes automatically to the MIAA website.”

While this may be the case, Jeremy Strachan, the director of media relations for the MIAA, believes it was an internal mistake -- a typo, if you will .

“That is an error on the schedule feed, thanks for pointing it out to us,” wrote Strachan in an email Feb. 23. “I will fix that shortly, (and) we apologize for the confusion.”

Whatever answer you choose, it is having an impact on the Comets.

“Not sure what's up with that,” said Comets’ coach Nicole Burford, who has led Olivet to a 77-76 record during her six-year term, “but, honestly, I'm just focused on getting the team prepared to the best I can for Friday. That's the only thing that matters to me.”

Entering the tournament, the Comets are the No. 4 seed, while the Flying Dutch are the No. 1 seed. The other semifinal features No. 2-seed Calvin College who plays the No. 3-seed Trine (Indiana) University Friday at 1 p.m. The winners of the two semifinal games on Friday will play in the tournament championship game Saturday, Feb. 27, at 5 p.m. at the DeVos Fieldhouse.

“It is correct that it is a MIAA website mistake,” wrote Hope College Sports Information Director Alan Babbitt in an email on Feb. 25. “As you can see, our schedule shows us playing in the championship game ONLY if we win Friday against Olivet.”

Done on purpose or not, the MIAA scheduling scenario will undoubtedly fuel Olivet to play come game time. In a sport based off innate emotions, writing the Comets off before they even play Friday’s game is worse than Kirk Center leftovers.

“Well, we know we have a great opportunity on Friday, but it will be tough,” Burford said through email Feb. 24. “They (Hope) are a very good team and obviously they've earned a chance to host, which is a good advantage for them. We are really focusing on a few things in the two games against them this season that we did not do well, and then getting better at the things we did do well. Beyond that, we've got to limit mental mistakes, limit fouls, out hustle and out rebound them.”

If the Comets do win, and Hope is left shoveling snow in their Holland driveways come Saturday, the team could view this moment with a Jack Nicholson sneer.

The Comets' roster features seven seniors and are led by team senior-captain Dallas Austin (St. Johns), who is averaging 6.9 points per game and 6.5 rebounds a game from the forward spot. Senior guard Shauni Hankins (Detroit) is leading the team in points at 10.2.

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