2015-16 Women's Basketball
#21 Bluffton 81, Hanover 71
February 20, 2016
By: Ryan Schadewald, sports information assistant
HANOVER, Ind. - The #21 Bluffton University women’s basketball team made history as they clinched a share of their first ever Heartland Conference title with an 81-71 road win over Hanover College on Saturday, Feb. 20. It marked Bluffton's first victory at Hanover since 2006. The win caps a superb regular season that finished at 23-2 overall and 16-2 in conference play. 23 wins in a season shatters the school record (18), as does their 16 HCAC wins (12) and their unblemished 12-0 home mark. Hanover fell to 9-16 overall and 5-13 in the HCAC. Following the Bluffton victory, Lady Luck was riding on the side of the Beavers as a coin toss to determine the #3 seed went the way of Franklin, ensuring Bluffton of the #1 seed and rights to host the HCAC semi-finals and championship game next weekend!
Bluffton scored six straight markers after Hanover opened with a freebie, as the Beavers took a 6-1 lead just over two minutes in. Hanover scored five in a row to tie it right back at 6-6. The teams went back and forth to finish the stanza. Bluffton led by as many as five late in the period, but the lead was just 21-19 after the first.
The Beavers opened the second on an 8-0 spurt, with Kaycee Rowe (Harrod/Allen East) and Macey Sheerer (Bucyrus) scoring on back-to-back possessions. Rowe added another bucket and Rachel Beining (Ottoville) hit a deuce to finish the run, giving the visitors a 29-19 lead at the 6:11 mark. The Beaver lead was 35-26 when Hanover would rattle off five straight tallies to get it back to a 35-31 game. A bucket from Abby Jerger (Middletown/Madison) pushed Bluffton’s lead back to six before Hanover scored the final four points of the half to make it 39-37 at the break.
The visitors came out hot in the third period, scoring 10 of the quarter’s first 14 markers, seeing their lead mushroom to 51-41 with 6:28 left in the quarter. Bluffton would stay around double figures for the remainder of the period, going up 11 on a late bucket from Abigail O’Donnell (Arcanum) before Ashley Malloy beat the buzzer for the Panthers to make it a 65-56 game entering the final period.
Bluffton blew the game open to start the fourth quarter, going on a 9-1 spurt that began with a layup by Sheerer, and then saw Rowe score seven straight points for the Beavers, making it 74-57 with 5:05 to play. Hanover would hang around by outscoring the Beavers 14-5 to sneak back to within eight points inside the final minute, but it was too late as Taylor Whitaker(Mansfield/Lexington) sealed it with two free throws to give Bluffton their first-ever HCAC title!
The Beavers shot the ball well, converting 32-of-68 (47.1 percent) from the floor and 68.2 percent (15-of-22) from the line. They did struggle from deep, shooting just 2-of-11 (18.2 percent). The Panthers finished the contest 26-of-69 (37.7 percent) from the floor and just 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) from beyond the arc. Bluffton destroyed Hanover on the boards, 51-32, but committed 24 turnovers compared to Hanover’s 18.
Bluffton finished with three in double figures, led by Kaycee Rowe, who capped her fourth career double-double with 24 points on 10-of-15 from the floor to go along with her 11 rebounds and team-high three steals. Macey Sheerer also garnered a double-double with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 13 rebounds, while Rachel Beining finished with 12 counters and 13 boards. It marked the first time in Bluffton women's history that three Beavers have put up double-doubles in the same game!
The Panthers were led by Allison Nash with 21 points and 10 boards, while Maci Maupin added 11 markers. Hanover will miss out on the HCAC tournament for the first time since 2006-07.
With the coin landing Ben Franklin side up, Franklin assumed the #3 seed in the HCAC tourney and by virtue of Bluffton's sweep of the Grizzlies, the route to the HCAC championship will run through Beaver country! Bluffton will play the winner of Tuesday night's Transylvania/Mount St. Joseph contest at 6 p.m. in the Sommer Center on Friday, Feb. 26. #2 seeded Rose-Hulman tips against the winner of Franklin and Defiance at approximately 8 p.m. The championship game is slated for 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27. Come out and make some noise next weekend as the Beavers look to earn their first-ever NCAA tournament berth! Watch for tournament updates this week on the Bluffton women's basketball schedule page. Go Beavers!