HANOVER, Ind. – The Panthers opened the second round of Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference action Saturday with Defiance. The Blue and Red used a balance attack with five players finishing in double-figures to capture the key conference victory, 88-76.
Leading the charge for Hanover (13-4 overall, 7-3 HCAC) was senior Kevin Williams (Edingburgh, Ind.) with 18 points, while teammates sophomore Matt Weimer (Georgetown, Ind.) registered 17 points, freshman Ty Houston (Union, Ky.) added 16 points, junior Mark Albers dished in 14 points and junior Isaac Hibbard (New Albany, Ind.) netted 10 points.
The opening half saw Defiance surge ahead early before a Houston tip-in and a deep ball at the 15:45 mark knotted the contest at 8-8. Kevin Williams deemed clutch in the paint with a layup that Houston again followed up with a jumper for the early game advantage.
The Yellow Jackets remained poise and responded with a short run led by an Owen Hiegel three-pointer that flipped the script. Sophomore Matt Weimer (Georgetown, Ind.), however, appeared to be the spark the Panthers needed off the bench taking his man to the hoop on back-to-back possessions to cut the deficit to 20-18. The Blue and Red carried the momentum as Albers made an impact with a three-pointer that saw HC claim the slim two-point difference.
The Hanover offense erupted with just over four minutes remaining when senior Logan Ratts (Martinsville, Ind.) and Hibbard provided consecutive buckets capping off a 5-0 run. Sophomore Christian Stewart (Clarksville, Ind.) would check in at the four-minute mark and showed his dominance netting the final two buckets of the half to give Hanover the 42-39 intermission lead. Hanover finished the opening half with 21 bench points paced by Weimer with 10 and Stewart with six points.
The inside game continued to be a proving force for Hanover in the second half as Williams scored eight points over a three-minute span to give the Blue and Red their largest lead, 53-45. But it didn't last long as a Defiance 6-0 run spouted another lead change.
The back and forth battle carried late into the half when Houston provided a three-point dagger and a steal for a quick six-point swing, 70-63. Albers continued to fire on all cylinders with a long rang ball from the corner that pushed the difference to 73-63. The three-pointer would prove to be the deciding factor as Albers finished with a perfect 4-for-4 mark from deep.
The Blue and Red return to action on Wednesday, January 29 as they welcome Mt. St. Joseph to Collier Arena. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM.