HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover men's basketball team honored its four seniors prior to Saturday's home contest with Defiance, and sent them out with a victory, 78-59, ultimately leading to a regular season HCAC championship.
The Panthers (19-6, 14-4 HCAC) entered the day one-game back in the HCAC standings, tied for second place with Rose-Hulman. After picking up a victory over Defiance, the Blue and Red shortly found out MSJ had lost in overtime at Earlham, securing them a tie atop the HCAC regular season standings. Rose-Hulman would hold on late at Manchester to also earn a share of the regular season title and will host the semifinal and championship rounds of the tournament next Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23 and 24.
Senior Parker Buse (Lynnville, Ind.), who was garnering his first collegiate start, scored the opening two points of the game for HC. Classmates Levi Buck (Pendleton, Ind.) and Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.), along with Buse, combined for 11 of Hanover's first 13 points, as a 9-0 run gave the Panthers an early 13-7 lead. Buck netted a pair of three-pointers during the scoring spurt and finished with nine first half points.
The Blue and Red made eight of their first 11 field goals, including a 5-for-6 effort from deep, extending its run to 18 straight points. The run that kept Defiance (3-22, 2-16 HCAC) scoreless for nearly six minutes gave HC a 22-7 advantage on the scoreboard.
The Yellow Jackets were able to close the gap to 10 points, 25-15, after an 8-3 scoring spurt, but Hanover would take a double-digit lead into the intermission at 31-20. The 20 points allowed by HC was its second fewest in a first half this season.
After both sides traded baskets in the opening moments of the second half, the Panthers extended their lead to 20 points for the first time in the game. An 11-2 run, highlighted by a pair of dunks from junior Nick White (New Albany, Ind.), gave HC a 44-24 advantage with 14:41 left to play. On 7-of-8 shooting, White would finish with 15 points and six rebounds in a reserve role.
Hanover's lead grew to as many as 24 points, with a layup from Christian Reed (Sellersburg, Ind.) putting the Blue and Red in front, 70-46. Reed, who played all 10 of his minutes in the second half, finished with 10 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting.
Buck would finish with highest Hanover total in the scoring column, adding eight second half points to end the game with 17. The senior also tallied a season high six assists. Classmate Colin Smith (Cincinnati, Ohio) dished out six helpers as well, which tied a career best. Smith also tied a career high in rebounds, as he led the way on the glass with 13 boards. McKinney added 12 points and six rebounds in the win.
The Blue and Red enjoyed a nice advantage on the glass, finishing with a 41-30 margin. Eight offensive rebounds also turned into 12 second chance points for HC.
After a cold shooting performance to end the first half, the Panthers rallied behind a .636 shooting clip in the second half to finish at 55 percent for the game. Defiance was held to under 25 percent shooting in the first half before finishing with a .364 mark.
Due to tiebreaker scenarios, Hanover will be the No. 3 seed in next week's HCAC Tournament. The Panthers, who open a men's-women's HCAC Tournament Opening Round doubleheader Tuesday, Feb. 20, will welcome Bluffton for a 6 p.m. tip.
Contact: Tyler Jester