FRANKLIN, Ind. – The Hanover men's basketball team claimed possession of first place in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference after a first half outburst propelled the Panthers past area rival Franklin, 74-53. With the victory, Hanover enters a three-way tie holding the tie breaker over both the Grizzlies and the Transylvania Pioneers.
The Blue and Red (15-5 overall, 9-4 HCAC) saw three players finish in double figures as senior Kevin Williams (Edingburgh, Ind.) paced the field with a game-high 19 points. Junior Mark Albers (Pendleton, Ind.) added 12 points, while junior Connor Washburn (Fishers, Ind.) chipped in 11 points. Senior Logan Ratts (Martinsville, Ind.) dominated the defensive end of the floor as he pulled in eight rebounds with two steals.
The Panthers established dominance from the opening tip as they used a 9-0 run led by Ratts with back-to-back scores, including an old fashion three-point play, to jump ahead. The hot streak continued for freshman Ty Houston (Union, Ky.) as he netted the teams only deep ball in the contest at the 16:06 mark to extend the Blue and Red lead to double digits.
Franklin attempted a comeback as a layup in the lane saw the Panther lead begin to dwindle but Kevin Williams had other things in mind as he found success at the free-throw line pushing the advantage to 20-9. With just under 10 minutes remaining in the opening half, Hanover fired on all cylinders capping off a 10-0 run with an Albers put back.
The Grizzlies cut the deficit to as little as 37-27 in the opening half but were unable to come any closer as a Washburn 5-0 run including a monster dunk propelled HC to the convincing 48-29 halftime advantage.
The Panthers wasted little time stealing the momentum in the second half as a Ratts layup off a Williams pass saw the Blue and Red push the difference to 50-29. The offensive blows just kept coming for Hanover as Albers sparked another run at the midway point that put Hanover on top 65-39.
Junior Isaac Hibbard (New Albany, Ind.) and Mark Albers would secure the victory down the stretch as the duo sank a pair of shots before a set of Kevin Williams free throws capped off an impressive day at the line. As a unit, the Panthers shot 11-of-13 (.846) for the contest.
The Panthers 48-point first quarter outburst is the most points scored by the Blue and Red in an opening stanza among HCAC play this season. With the win, they also claim their third straight season sweep of Franklin.
The Blue and Red return to action on Saturday, February 8 as they travel to Earlham. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.