Late rally comes up short in Panthers road loss to Bluffton

Alexis Nall passing the ball

BLUFFTON, Ohio - Down eight points with 2:30 left to play, the Hanover women's basketball team came back to tie the game with less than a minute to go but were unable to take the lead as the Panthers fell 64-62 to Bluffton in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference action Saturday afternoon. 

Sophomore Alexis Nall (Mount Vernon, Ind.) scored a season-high 23 points to go along with 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season, and fellow sophomore Maleha Motter (Danville, Ind.) posted her ninth double-double of the year with 13 points and 15 rebounds, but it would not be enough.

Nall had a huge first quarter as she scored the team's first 10 points and finished the quarter with 14 of the 16 points scored by the Panthers. She made all seven shots she attempted, while grabbing three rebounds, but Hanover would trail 17-16 after one period. 

A pair of free throws by Motter early in the second quarter gave the Panthers the lead, which they would keep for the remainder of the half. Ahead 32-29 with 2:40 to play in the period, junior Avery Chezem (Loogootee, Ind.) knocked down a three-pointer to ignite an 11-2 run to close the half. Chezem also hit a three-pointer as time expired to give Hanover the 43-31 lead at the break. 

The first points of the third quarter didn't come until 2:31 into the second half when Bluffton hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to nine. Two Nall free throws pushed the lead to 11 points only to see the Beavers go on a 12-4 run to pull within three at 49-46 with under a minute remaining. 

Following a Chezem free throw, Bluffton (14-5, 9-3 HCAC) hit another three-pointer and would trail by only one at 50-49 going into the final quarter. 

Ahead 52-51 early in the fourth, the Panthers were out-scored 11-2 over the next 6:31 to fall behind 62-54. Nall then hit a lay-up followed by a pair of free throws each by Motter and junior Claire Cromer (Wabash, Ind.). Another Nall lay-up with 48 seconds left tied the game at 62-62. After the two teams exchanged turnovers, the Beavers made two free throws with 20 seconds left. Hanover called a timeout and got off a three-point attempt with the clock winding down, but it would not go down and the game ended in a two-point Bluffton win. 

Although the Panthers out-shot (47.1% - 43.8%) and out-rebounded (38-35) the Beavers, Bluffton had a 16-10 advantage in points off turnovers, a 10-4 edge in bench points, and out-scored Hanover 16-8 in second chance points. 

With her game-high 23 points, Nall came up one point shy of tying her career best of 24 points set last year at Spalding. She finished 10 of 15 from the field and made three of her four free throw attempts. Motter's 15 rebounds gives her 58 in her last four contests as she has now recorded four straight games with a double-double. 

Hanover, now 12-7 overall and 8-4 in the HCAC, will return home Wednesday, Jan. 31 to host Rose-Hulman. Game time is set for 7 p.m. in Collier Arena. 

Contact: Mike Pritchard