Written by Sports Information Student Assistant, Jake Sipes-Salter
HANOVER, Ind. - For the first time in five years, the Hanover women's basketball team advanced to the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Championship Game with a 72-59 victory over Franklin in the HCAC Semifinals.
The Blue and Red opened up scoring with a layup from senior Alexis Nall (Mount Vernon, Ind.), but Destinee Cross would knock down a three on the Grizzlies' ensuing possession to put the Panthers in an early 3-2 hole. However, Nall responded with an and-one with 7:21 to go in the quarter to give HC a 5-3 lead. This started a 13-1 run between 7:21 and 3:57 to grab a 15-4 advantage. At 3:13, Cross once again knocked down a trey to cut the Panther lead, but junior Savannah Courtney (Lawrenceburg, Ky.) shot back on Hanover's subsequent possession with an old-fashioned three to make it an 18-7 tally with 2:52 left in the frame. By the end of the period, it was 22-10 in favor of HC.
The Panthers scored three points inside the first minute of the second period, capped by a free throw from freshman Callie Wilder (North Vernon, Ind.) to take a 25-10 upper hand. Franklin swiftly brought this to 25-15 with 8:07 on the clock. Hanover rifled off five points of their own with a jumper from Nall and a three from senior Katie Hartman (Madison, Ind.) that made it a 30-15 Panther lead. Franklin would answer with a 12-2 scoring string between 4:57 and 1:47 that made the scoreboard show a 32-27 Hanover advantage. Courtney made a layup to put it at 34-27, but a late make from Ashlin Aycock made it a 34-29 halftime tally.
The third quarter started with Franklin coming within one possession of Hanover when Jenna Cowart converted on a layup to cut their deficit to 34-31 with less than 30 seconds gone by. Unanswered makes from Hartman, Nall, and Courtney to extend the gap to 40-31 with 7:46 left in the third. The Grizzlies got buckets on back-to-back possessions, but at 5:02 a pair of Nall free throws secured a 42-35 lead for the Blue and Red. At 3:32, another and-one for HC, this one from senior Brooke Todd (Vevay, Ind.) marked a 47-38 Panther advantage. It was 53-38 by 1:09, with the end of the quarter showing 55-43 for HC.
To begin the fourth frame, Franklin outscored Hanover four to one to cut close the gap to 56-47 with 8:22 remaining in the contest. The Panthers responded with a 10-2 scoring run that gave them a 66-49 lead with 5:28 to go. From here until the end of the game, HC never allowed the Grizzlies to come within single digits again, and they secured the win.
The Blue and Red were paced by Alexis Nall, who netted a season-best 32 points on 12-for-18 shooting and a team-high 14 rebounds. Moreover, Savannah Courtney notched a double-double with 13 points and 12 boards. Hartman added 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds. With eight points and a pair of assists, Brooke Todd put her career-total at 349 dimes, tying the all-time record for the Panthers. As a unit, HC shot 25-of-51 (49%) from the field, while grabbing 30 defensive boards to just 20 for Franklin.
Hanover will look to capture their first HCAC Tournament Title since the 2014-15 campaign when they clash with Transylvania at 11:30 a.m., Sunday, March 1.