Panthers hold off Franklin, advance to HCAC semis

Hanover College’s men’s basketball team held off Franklin College, 78-70, to advance to the semifinals of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s post-season tournament.

Hanover (18-8), the No. 3 seed in the six-team tourney, will face No. 2 Defiance College (Ohio) in the first semifinal game. The contest will be played Friday, Feb. 28, at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.

Sophomore forward V.J. Billups (Jeffersonville, Ind.) scored 18 points and matched his season-high with seven rebounds to spark Hanover to its fifth win in six HCAC tournament games against Franklin.

Junior guards Tim Bass (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Kyle James (Indianapolis, Ind.) combined for 30 points. Bass netted 16 points and dished out six assists to become Hanover's career leader (349). James had 14 points.

James poured in 12 of his points in the first period as the Panthers built a 41-31 lead at the half.

Billups scored five points and Bass added four as Hanover extended the margin to 15 points (50-35) five minutes into the second half.

Franklin (10-16), the No. 6 seed, whittled the deficit to 10 points with seven minutes left (60-50), then outscored the Panthers 12-4 through the next three minutes to trim the lead to 64-62 with four minutes to play.

Hanover led 66-64 with 3:28 to go, but sealed with victory with its final 12 points coming from the charity stripe.

In the final 90 seconds, Bass hit 6-of-6 free throws, Billups made four in a row from the line and junior center Desmond Marks (Bloomington, Ind.) added a pair.

Franklin, meanwhile, missed four consecutive field goal attempts during the same span and used three free throws and a three-pointer - just prior to the horn - for the final margin.

The Panthers finished 27-of-54 from the floor (50%) and hit 19-of-21 free throws (90.5%), including the 12-of-12 effort down the stretch.

Bailey Howard score 17 points and Trae Washington added 16 to lead four Franklin players in double figures.

Hanover vs. Franklin statistics