Written by Sports Information Student Assistant, Jake Sipes-Salter
HANOVER, Ind. - After securing a share of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference's regular season title with Transylvania, the Hanover women's basketball team bypassed the opening round of the tournament, automatically advancing to the semifinal round.
The Panthers will face off against Franklin at 3 p.m., Saturday, February 29. The winner will advance to the HCAC Championship, where they will play the winner of the 1 p.m. clash between No.15 Transylvania and Bluffton.
HANOVER IN HCAC TOURNAMENT: The Blue and Red found their way into the conference postseason tournament for the fourth straight year after finishing the regular season 18-6 overall with a 17-1 slate in the HCAC. HC is currently riding an 11-contest unbeaten streak, and has won 14 of its last 15 outings. Their lone loss since the start of 2020 was on the road versus Transylvania on January 15.
In the last six years, Hanover has appeared in the semifinals four times, and has advanced to the championship twice. In the 2018-19 campaign, they went as far as the HCAC Semifinals, where they were bounced by Rose-Hulman by an 80-61 tally. The Panthers will look to advance to the HCAC Championship for the first time since 2014-15, when they beat Transylvania to claim the automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament.
LAST WEEK IN REVIEW: The Blue and Red garnered a pair of victories over the past week, highlighted by an upset of Transylvania on February 19, who at the time was ranked no.9 in the nation. The Panthers' 64-57 triumph handed the Pioneers their first loss in the HCAC, and helped Hanover retain their unbeaten streak at Collier Arena. HC held the conference leader in shooting percentage to just 18-of-57 (.316) from the field, while winning the defensive glass by a 19-17 margin. HC was aided on the boards by senior Kristin Mills (Cincinnati, Ohio), who grabbed nine rebounds and added 13 points.
On Senior Day on February 22, Hanover beat Rose-Hulman 71-52 behind strong shooting from behind the three-point arc. The Blue and Red made their first six from deep, and finished 11-of-22 from long range. Senior Katie Hartman (Madison, Ind.) notched a career-high 24 points, including a collegiate-best six made threes. Also netting a personal-high was sophomore Lexi Riggles (Danville, Ind.) who added 11 points off the bench, with nine points on a trio of treys coming in the first quarter.
NALL NETS THREE-PEAT: Senior Alexis Nall (Mount Vernon, Ind.) received the HCAC Player of the Week award for the third consecutive week and sixth time in the 2019-20 campaign for her performances last week. Versus Transylvania, she had a game-high 26 points while adding seven rebounds in the upset. She followed this up with a 20 point, nine rebound outing against Rose-Hulman to achieve weekly averages of 23 points and eight boards.
On the year, Nall led the HCAC in points per game (18.3), rebounds per game (8.7), and field goal percentage (.554). Her field goal percentage ranks 23rd in DIII, while her points per game average ranks 52nd in the nation. Nall had her season high on December 7 against Manchester, when she had 30 points and 18 boards in the Hanover win.
PANTHERS ON THE PROWL: In her senior season, Katie Hartman is posting career-highs in points per game (12.6) and three-point percentage (.408). Her efficiency from deep leads the HCAC by NCAA qualifications, and is the 28th-best mark in the country. At Collier, Hartman has been even more deadly, shooting 44.2 percent from behind the arc. In February, Hartman averaged 13.7 points per appearance, bolstered by a string of three consecutive 15-point outings against Manchester, Franklin, and Anderson.
Also proving to be a critical element of the Blue and Red's success is junior Savannah Courtney (Lawrenceburg, Ky.), who averages 9.9 points per game and a team-leading 2.4 steals per contest, which ranks second in the conference. In addition, Courtney is grabbing 5.3 rebounds per outing while shooting .472 on the offensive end. Courtney has registered double-digits in the last four tilts; versus Transy, Courtney tallied 11 points and seven boards, while putting up 16 points and four steals in a comeback victory over Anderson.
SCOUTING FRANKLIN: The Franklin Grizzlies finished the regular season 16-8 overall with a 12-6 record in HCAC tilts. In the opening round of the HCAC Tournament, the Grizzlies beat Earlham 63-35, behind 20 points from Destinee Cross and 11 points and 10 rebounds from Jenna Cowart. The Blue and Red won their previous matchup on February 5 by a 70-64 final after trailing 29-28 at halftime. Nall had 26 points and six rebounds on the night, while Courtney added 12 points and four steals.