Panthers sprint past Transy for HCAC crown

Hanover College’s women’s basketball squad earned the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship and the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Division III national tournament with an 83-66 victory against Transylvania University (Ky.). The HCAC title game was played Sunday, Feb. 24, in Lexington, Ky.

Senior forward Katie Gahimer (St. Paul, Ind.) scored a career-high 28 points and was named the event’s most valuable player. Sophomore guard Alicia Hopkins (Columbus, Ind.) added a personal-best 23 points and junior forward Elyse Weddle (Bloomfield, Ind.) chipped in 11 off the bench to spark the Panthers (21-7).

The conference tournament championship was the third for Hanover’s program (1997, 2011), while the appearance in the title game was the fifth in a row for the Panthers.

Madisen Webb scored 19 points and Katelyn Smith added 15 to pace Transylvania, which had swept two regular-season games against Hanover. The Pioneers slipped to 21-6 with the setback.

The Panthers jumped out to a 23-7 lead just six minutes into the contest and stretched the margin to 21 points (30-9) with nine minutes left in the half.

Gahimer scored 19 points in the first half, including 5-of-5 from three-point range, and Hopkins added 14 points to help Hanover build a 47-24 lead at the break.

The Panthers led by as many as 28 points (60-32) early in the second half and kept the margin more than 20 points into the final five minutes of the contest.

Transylvania’s Brooke Culliver hit a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left to trim the lead to 17 points (83-66).  That was as close as the Pioneers would get since Hanover’s 23-7 cushion early in the first period.

Hanover finished the game 31-of-65 (47.7%) from the floor, including a season-high 11 three-pointers. The Panthers were 10-of-16 from the charity stripe (62.5%).

Transylvania shot just 22.9 percent from the field in the first half (8-of-35). The Pioneers hit 22-of-65 field goals in the game (33.8%).

Transylvania posted a 44-40 rebounding advantage.

Hopkins and Gahimer grabbed six boards apiece to lead Hanover’s effort on the glass.

Senior guard Natalie Morse (Mitchell, Ind.) dished out a career-high nine assists to help fuel the Panthers’ offense, which outscored the Pioneers 30-16 in the paint and had 22 points off turnovers.

Hanover will learn its national tournament fate when the NCAA announces its pairings, Monday, Feb. 25.

Hanover at Transylvania (Ky.) statistics