2015-16 Women's Basketball
#21 Bluffton 79, Earlham 50
February 17, 2016
By: Ryan Schadewald, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University women’s basketball team left no doubt about the inevitable result on Senior Night as the Beavers cruised to a 79-50 win in their final regular season game at the Sommer Center on Wednesday, Feb. 17. The win clinches a first round bye in the upcoming HCAC tournament, securing a top two seed with a 15-2 conference record. The Beavers also sit at 22-2 overall. Earlham fell to 5-19, 3-4 in the HCAC. Bluffton's win over Earlham also clinched a first-ever spotless 12-0 home mark for the Beavers!
The home team jumped on top with a great start, getting out to a 15-6 lead in the opening six minutes of the contest, including points from all five of the senior starters in their final home contest. The lead would stay in the 9-11 point range before a triple from Taylor Whitaker (Mansfield/Lexington) at the buzzer gave Bluffton the 26-14 spread after the first.
The Beavers continued to pour it on in the second, starting the quarter on an 11-4 spurt, including five markers from Kaycee Rowe (Harrod/Allen East) to push Bluffton’s lead out to 37-18 at the 6:16 mark. The Quakers got within 14 late in the second, but a Rachel Beining (Ottoville) layup made it 44-28 at the break. The Beavers finished their red-hot half from the floor shooting a blistering 18-of-26 (69.2 percent) on field goals.
The third period saw the Quakers sneak back to within 12 a couple of times early in the period, including 48-36 with 6:40 to play. But a Rowe triple and layup from Kaitlyn Pennekamp (Hamilton/Ross) made it a 17-point spread. After a deuce from Earlham, Abby Jerger (Middletown/Madison) and Pennekamp added back-to-back layins for a 19-point advantage, a lead the Beavers would take into the fourth.
Two Pennekamp buckets sandwiched around a hoop-and-harm from Whitaker gave the Beavers seven straight counters to open the final quarter and make it 69-43 with 8:45 to play. It left Pennekamp just one point shy of 1,000 for her career. The Beavers continued feeding her the rock until she broke the barrier on a layup at the 2:54 mark and a 75-48 cushion. At that point, the seniors left the floor to a rousing ovation and the Beavers cruised to a 79-50 win.
Bluffton finished the contest shooting at a 54.4 percent clip (31-of-57) from the field, but just 28.6 percent (4-of-14) from deep. Earlham shot 37 percent (20-of-54), including a dismal 0-for-10 from beyond the arc. The Beavers won the battle of the boards, 33-28, and committed five fewer turnovers (16-11). Bluffton also finished with an impressive 1.81 assist/turnover ratio (20 assists, 11 turnovers).
Kaitlyn Pennekamp led the Beavers on her milestone night as she dropped in 18 points to go along with five boards and two assists. She is currently 8th all-time with 1,001 points. Taylor Whitaker chipped in with 15 markers in just 17 minutes of play. She moved up to 6th on the all-time list with 1,021 points and the Pennekamp-Whitaker combo are the first classmates for the Bluffton women to go over 1,000 career tallies! Whitaker also dished out five assists, tying her career high. Kaycee Rowe added 14 counters to go along with a team-high eight boards. Taylor Knight (Perrysburg) scored nine points with a team-high seven assists and two steals in her 101st career contest as a Beaver.
Bluffton wraps up the regular season on Saturday, Feb. 20, as the Beavers hit the road to Indiana for a meeting with the Hanover College Panthers. Tip for that contest is set for 2 p.m. The Heartland Conference tournament host is still to be determined as it will come down to the final Saturday of the season. Bluffton and Rose-Hulman are knotted at the top and either the Beavers or Engineers will host the tourney.