HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover men's basketball team fought back from multiple double-digit deficits Wednesday evening, but ultimately fell to Mt. St. Joseph in a battle of first place teams inside Collier Arena, 73-71.
After a 9-0 run gave Hanover (18-6, 13-4 HCAC) its largest lead of the game at 16-10, the Blue and Red found themselves on the wrong end of a 24-8 scoring spurt, falling behind 34-24 with 5:18 remaining in the opening half. The Panthers however, scored 12 of the final 18 points in the first half to cut its deficit to four points, 40-36, at the intermission.
Both sides possessed efficient offenses in the opening 20 minutes, combining to shoot over 58 percent from the field. Hanover finished the first half with a 60-percent shooting clip, but the Lions (17-7, 14-3 HCAC) made 7-of-12 shots from behind the arc.
Just as Hanover closed the first half on a 12-6 run, it was Mt. St. Joseph that opened the second half on a 12-6 scoring spurt of its own, capturing its largest lead of the contest, 12 points, at 52-40, with a little less than 16 minutes remaining in the game.
In the game that featured a series of runs, it was Hanover's turn, as they fought back to tie the game at 56-all, capped by an acrobatic reverse layup from senior Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.). Unfortunately for the Panthers, their 16-4 run was followed by an 11-1 advantage for the Lions, giving them a 67-57 lead with 2:07 to play.
Just as they have each of the past two seasons, the Panthers continued to climb back into the game, as McKinney scored the next five points, closing the gap to 67-62 with 1:02 left on the clock. Junior Cam Fails (Mason, Ohio) then traded layups for MSJ free throws to keep the Lions in front by five, but a layup from Isaac Hibbard (New Albany, Ind.) made it 71-68, MSJ, with eight seconds remaining. Hibbard would finish with nine points, four rebounds and a career high four assists.
Mt. St. Joseph nailed two free throws after Hibbard's layup and despite a three pointer from Fails in the closing seconds, HC would run out of time.
Fails would follow up his HCAC Player of the Week performance from last week with a team high 25 points Wednesday night. The junior made 10-of-13 field goals, four of which came from deep, and has now scored 20 or more points in eight of the last 10 outings.
McKinney poured in 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while draining two of his three attempts from three-point range. The senior also led the team with six rebounds. Junior Nick White (New Albany, Ind.) was the third Panther in double figures, netting 6-of-8 shots for 12 points.
Hanover's top three scorers Wednesday, Fails, McKinney and White, combined to shoot 73.3 percent (22-30) from the field. Overall, HC ended the game with a .571 field goal percentage, finishing the regular season series against the Lions with a .593 shooting clip.
Despite the loss, the Panthers are still mathematically alive to earn a share of the HCAC regular season championship. Unfortunately, the Blue and Red will have to go on the road to secure their second straight HCAC Tournament championship no matter how Saturday's regular season finale games play out.
Hanover will close out the regular season by welcoming Defiance for Senior Day on Saturday, Feb. 17. The Panthers will honor their four seniors prior to the 3 p.m. start.
Contact: Tyler Jester