LEXINGTON, Ky.—A strong second half effort led the Hanover College over No. 13 Transylvania, 106-98, Saturday in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Championship at the Clive M. Beck Center.
As the game began, the Pioneers opened an early 9-2 lead, but the Panthers battled back to tie the game at 10-10 before senior forward Alex McKenzie hit her second three-pointer of the half to put Transylvania up 13-10 heading into the under 16:00 media timeout. The Pioneers increased their lead to eight at 31-23 with just under 9:30 remaining in the half, but two Hanover free throws with 4:43 left in the half gave the Panthers a 35-33 lead. As the teams neared the end of the half, senior forward Chelsea Pharris drained a three-pointer to close to within one at 47-46, but Hanover took a 49-46 lead into the locker room.
In the first half, the Pioneers were led by senior guard Nicole Coffman's 16 points. McKenzie added a dozen for Transylvania, but Hanover outscored the Pioneers in the paint 30-16.
As the teams returned to the hardwood for the second half, the Panthers opened up a 52-46 lead before an old-fashioned three-point play from McKenzie again cut the Hanover lead to three at 52-49 with 19:37 remaining in the game. A Coffman basket at the 18:06 mark gave the Pioneers their first lead of the second half at 53-52, but at the under 16:00 media timeout the game was knotted at 58-58. At the 10:27 mark, Coffman again tied the game at 72-72, but consecutive three-pointers by the Panthers put Hanover on top 78-72 with just under 10 minutes left to play. The Panthers eventually opened up an 11 point lead, but Transylvania battled back as Coffman cut the deficit to 97-94 with 2:05 remaining. A 7-0 run put Hanover back up by double-digits at 104-94 with just 38 seconds left, and when the final horn sounded, the second-seeded Panthers had stunned top-seeded Transylvania by a score of 106-98.
For the game, the Pioneers finished with four players in double-figures, led by Coffman's game-high 37 points. Junior guard Katelyn Smith finished with 20 points and McKenzie added 18 points. Junior forward Chelsea Pharris finished with 12 points off the bench for Transylvania. Megan Caudill led the Panthers with 33 points, and tournament MVP Alicia Hopkins finished with 29 points for Hanover.
For their efforts Coffman and Smith were named to the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference all-tournament team.
Saturday's matchup marked the third consecutive HCAC Championship game between the teams, Hanover won two of three. With the win, the Panthers earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, still has a solid chance after finishing the season 25-2.
The NCAA Divison III selection show airs tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.