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.
Published Sunday, February 24, 2013