Panthers advance to HCAC championship

Hanover College’s men’s basketball will play for the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship after earning a 61-54 victory against No. 2 seed Defiance College (Ohio) in the semifinals in Terre Haute, Ind.

Junior guard Tim Bass (Indianapolis, Ind.) scored a game-high 16 points to lead Hanover to its third HCAC title game in the past four seasons.

Senior forward Jacob Rieger (Cold Springs, Ky.) netted 13 points sophomore forward V.J. Billups (Jeffersonville, Ind.) had 10 for the Panthers (19-8).

Hanover, the No. 3 seed, will face No. 1 Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in the championship at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 1, in Terre Haute, Ind. The Panthers split a pair of games against the Engineers (21-5), with each team winning on its home court.

Hanover, which has won seven of its last eight games, got 10 points from Bass as the squad built a nine-point lead midway through the first half (21-12) and held on to a 28-22 advantage at the intermission.

The Yellow Jackets pulled within 33-31 five minutes into the second half, but sophomore forward Michael Van Kleunen (Mason, Ohio) scored four points and Rieger drilled a three-pointer as the Panthers countered with a 9-0 burst to grab a 42-31 lead with 14 minutes to play.

Hanover led 52-39 with 6:55 left before Defiance mounted a charge in the closing minutes.

The Yellow Jackets trimmed the margin to five points (54-49) with 1:51 on the clock. Bass made four straight free throws to eventually boost the cushion to 58-51 with 36 second left.

Bernard Edwards hit a pair of free throws and Mason Roth connected on 1-of-2 as Defiance cut the deficit to 58-54 with 17 seconds remaining.

The Yellow Jackets, however, missed from the inside and had a key turnover in the closing seconds.

Rieger, meanwhile, made one from the charity stripe with 17 seconds to play and junior guard Kyle James (Indianapolis, Ind.) canned a pair with five ticks on the clock for the final margin.

Hanover shot 45.7 percent from the floor (21-of-46), with five three-pointers, and hit 14-of-18 free throws (77.8%).

The Panthers earned a 36-21 advantage on the boards. Junior center Desmond Marks (Bloomington, Ind.) pulled down a game-high six rebounds, while Rieger and Van Kleunen had five apiece.

Edwards scored 14 points to lead three Defiance players in double figures. Ryan Hicks and Roth added 12 points apiece.

The Yellow Jackets made 19-of-47 field goals, but hit just 2-of-14 three-pointers (16.7%). The squad was 14-of-17 from the line (82.4%).

Hanover vs. Defiance (Ohio) statistics