Hanover-Ohio Northern in NCAA opener at Hope

The Hanover College women’s basketball team will face Ohio Northern University in the opening round of the 64-team NCAA III tournament. The Panthers and Polar Bears will battle at 5:15 p.m., Friday, March 1, at Hope College (Mich.) in Holland, Mich.

2013 Women's NCAA III Tournament Bracket

Live Statistics / Live Video / Hanover Audio

Tickets are available online through the Hope College Box Office. The general admission tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for students.

Hanover, making its third national tournament appearance (1997, 2011), has a 21-7 overall record. The Panthers captured the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s tournament championship with an 83-66 win against No. 1 seed Transylvania University (Ky.). The squad placed third in the HCAC during the regular season with a 12-6 mark.

Ohio Northern, a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference, is making its fifth appearance in the national tournament and first since 1989.

The Polar Bears, ranked No. 3 in the nation, are 26-1 overall and have won 25 consecutive games. The squad earned the OAC regular-season title with an 18-0 mark and grabbed the league’s tournament crown with a 73-46 win against Otterbein University (Ohio).

Hanover is led by senior forward Courtney Prater (Anderson, Ind.), sophomore guard Alicia Hopkins (Columbus, Ind.) and senior forward Katie Gahimer (St. Paul, Ind.).

Prater leads the Panthers with 16.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. She is just the third player in school history to amass more than 1,200 career points (1,289) and 700 rebounds (764).

Hopkins averages 12.8 points, 4.6 steals, 3.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds per outing. She set a school single-season record this winter with 128 steals.

Gahimer, who was named the Heartland Conference tournament’s most valuable player, lends 10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest. She netted a career-high 28 points to spark Hanover in its tournament win against Transylvania.

Ohio Northern is led by junior forward Cenzie Yoder and senior forwards Joanna Snyder and Morgan Dumbaugh.

Yoder leads the Polar Bears with 14.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest. Snyder adds 13.5 points and 6.0 boards per game, while Dumbaugh adds 11.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per outing.

Hanover and Ohio Northern have tangled in three of the past four seasons. The Panthers have won each of the meetings, including a 76-62 victory last season in Ada, Ohio. Prater led Hanover in that contest with 23 points and 13 rebounds.

Site host Hope will face Wheaton College (Ill.) in the second contest, at 7:30 p.m., March 1.

Hope, a member of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, is making its 14th appearance in the NCAA III tournament. The Flying Dutch have a 26-1 record this season and are ranked No. 2 in the nation in both the USA Today Sports and D3hoops.com polls.

Hope posted a 15-1 record to tie Calvin College (Mich.) for the MIAA’s regular-season crown. The Flying Dutch defeated Calvin, 62-59, to win the conference’s tournament title.

Hope enters the tournament riding a 12-game winning streak. The Flying Dutch have not lost since a 64-59 setback against Calvin, Jan. 12.

Senior forward Courtney Cust leads Hope with 12.0 points per outing and scored a career-high 29 points in the MIAA championship game. Senior guard Liz Ellis adds 10.3 points per game.

Hope has appeared in the NCAA III championship game three times. The Flying Dutch fell to Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.), 65-59, in the 2010 finals. The squad edged St. John Fisher College (N.Y.), 65-63, to win the 1990 title and defeated the University of Southern Maine, 69-56, in the 2006 championship.

Wheaton, ranked 33rd in the USA Today poll, is in the NCAA field for the eighth time and first since 2007. The Thunder enters the tourney with a 22-5 overall record, including a second-place finish in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin with an 11-3 mark.

Wheaton has split its last four games, including a 61-52 loss to Cathage College (Wis.) in the finals of the CCIW tournament.

Senior guard Brooke Olson leads the Thunder in scoring with 16.0 points per outing. Junior forward Maris Hovee ranks first on the squad with 9.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per contest.

The Hanover/Ohio Northern and Hope/Wheaton winners will meet, at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, March 2, in the second round.