Men's basketball claims third straight HCAC regular season title

Carlos Garcia

DEFIANCE, Ohio – With a 72-58 win at Defiance Saturday, the Hanover men's basketball team won its third consecutive Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season championship.

The Panthers (19-6, 14-4) have now earned a share of three straight regular season titles, as the win Saturday gives them an outright championship in two of the last three seasons. Hanover will now host all three rounds of the HCAC Tournament, which will take place next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21, 22 and 23.

Senior Cam Fails (Cincinnati, Ohio) and junior Ryan Cloncs (Danville, Ind.) led the way for a balanced offensive attack, totaling 18 and 17 points, respectively. Fails added a career-high 12 assists for his second double-double of the season. Cloncs netted five shots from three-point range as his scoring total gives him a career-high mark and three straight outings with 10-plus points.

Also in double figures in the scoring column were junior Kevin Williams (Edinburgh, Ind.) and freshman Carlos Garcia (Mason, Ohio). Williams had 12 points on five-of-six shooting, while Garcia netted six-of-eight attempts, including three-for-five from deep, for 15 points. The tandem combined for 21 first half points and were two of four players to tie for the team-high in rebounds at five.

Defiance (3-22, 1-17 HCAC) was able to get off to a fast start during its Senior Day, taking its largest lead of the contest at 16-9 with 13:55 remaining in the first half. Hanover quickly responded with nine straight points to take a two-point advantage, 18-16, forcing a Yellow Jacket timeout.

Out of the break, the Panthers added five more points, as the 14-0 run, capped by back-to-back layups from Williams, had HC in front 23-16 with just over nine minutes left before halftime. Despite DC shooting over 50 percent in the first half, HC led 36-29 at the intermission.

The Blue and Red got off to a cold shooting start in the second half, missing their first seven field goal attempts. Due to the poor shooting, Defiance was able to climb back into the contest and tie it at 41-all with 13:46 remaining.

Fails responded with a nifty layup on the next HC possession, which sparked a 14-2 run for the Panthers. Hanover led 55-43 near the midway point of the second half. Fails scored seven points, while also assisting twice during the spurt.

Leading for the remainder of the contest, Cloncs would nail one of his three second-half treys at the 2:51 mark, giving HC its largest lead of the contest, 20 points, at 72-52. The Blue and Red allowed six additional points down the stretch to hold their 13th opponent under 60 points this winter.

Hanover shot .475 (28-59) for the game, including a 10-for-27 effort from three-point range. The Panthers netted double-digit treys for the sixth time this season.

The Blue and Red will now have to wait to see who their first opponent will be in postseason play. Hanover does have the luxury of a first round bye and will next be in action during the HCAC semifinals Saturday, Feb. 22.

Contact: Tyler Jester