With over 3,000 opposing fans watching down from the stands, junior Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.) sank a shot at the buzzer to silence the sellout crowd at No. 18 Hope (Mich.) on Friday evening, as the No. 12 Hanover men's basketball team advances to its first ever NCAA Elite Eight with a 79-77 victory.
McKinney was the go-to option throughout the night and he came through again in the clutch, as his last second make capped a 28-point night for him, while also improving the Panthers to 26-3 overall and winners of 12 straight.
The junior was also one of five players to record at least five rebounds in the contest. McKinney made 12-of-17 shots overall, and was 3-for-6 from long range.
After trailing by 11 points at halftime, the Panthers responded with nine of the first 11 points in the second half to cut the Hope (23-7) advantage to 47-43 less than three minutes into the second stanza.
The Flying Dutchmen extended the lead back out to 10 points, before another Hanover run closed the gap to 59-56. A McKinney three pointer capped an 11-4 spurt for the Blue and Red. Again, Hope pushed the lead back to double figures, 66-56, with 7:21 remaining.
As the story was all second half, the valiant Cardiac Cats rallied to close the gap to 68-65, as Hanover called a timeout with 4:15 left to play.
The 30-second break proved to be a smart decision as Hanover scored the next six points to take its first lead of the game since the 15:39 mark of the first half. The Panthers led 71-68 with just over three minutes remaining.
The seesaw affair saw Hope take a 77-75 edge after a pair of free throws with 26.9 seconds left to play. On the ensuing HC possession, senior Corey Muchmore (Cincinnati, Ohio) grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a put back, to tie the contest at 77-all with 2.6 remaining.
As the Flying Dutchmen were inbounding the ball, freshman Logan Ratts (Martinsville, Ind.) stepped in with a deflection, which went off a Hope player giving Hanover the ball on the baseline with just over one second left on the game clock.
McKinney came around a pair of screens on the right block, catching the inbounds pass near the right corner, where his fade away jumper hit the bottom of the net as the buzzer went off.
Muchmore made 8-of-12 field goal attempts, scoring 20 points, while also grabbing five rebounds. Ratts finished with just six points, but added five rebounds and two steals.
Sophomore Cam Fails (Mason, Ohio), who was in foul trouble for most of the first half, as he scored seven of his nine points in the second period, while tying a career high with six rebounds. Junior Levi Buck (Pendleton, Ind.) pitched in with 15 points, five rebounds and a team high four assists.
Hanover finished the contest at 51.1 percent from the floor, as they shot close to 60 percent in the second half. After conceding a field goal percentage over 50 percent to Hope in the first half, the Panthers clamped down on defense to hold the Dutchmen to a .357 shooting clip in the second frame.
The Blue and Red will play in their first ever NCAA Elite Eight game at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 11. Hanover will face Augustana (Ill.), who defeated Wartburg in the opener at Hope. Tickets will go on sale at the Devos Fieldhouse when the doors open at 6 p.m. on Saturday.