2015-16 Women's Basketball
Bluffton 52, Rose-Hulman 46
February 27, 2016
By: Ryan Schadewald, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University women’s basketball team earned its first-ever HCAC Tournament title on Saturday, Feb. 27, with a 52-46 victory over the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. The win also locks the Beavers into their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. With the win, the Beavers improved to 25-2 on the year and finished with an unblemished 14-0 mark in the Sommer Center. Rose-Hulman had its 18-game winning streak snapped, ending the Engineers' record-breaking 2015-16 campaign at 23-4.
The Beavers started out red hot and after a 2-2 tie to open the contest, a Taylor Whitaker (Mansfield/Lexington) jumper ignited a huge Bluffton run that saw the home team score 18 of the final 20 points in the first to take a 20-4 lead after one quarter.
The Engineers slowed it down, with each team scoring just two points in the first four minutes of the second frame. Period two turned into a free throw shooting contest, but six straight hits from the Beavers mushroomed their lead to 31-9 with 2:54 to play in the half. They pushed the spread as high as 23 following a Belicia Cooper (Painesville/Riverside) layup which made it a 33-10 game at the 2:10 mark. Rose trimmed the lead to 18 before a Kaitlyn Pennekamp (Hamilton/Ross) buzzer-beating jumper put the Beavers up 35-15 at the break.
The momentum shifted quickly in the third quarter. Bluffton kept it at 20 points thanks to a pair of freebies from Macey Sheerer (Bucyrus) just two minutes into the quarter, but the Engineers rallied for 10 straight markers to make it 37-27 with 4:44 left in the third. The contest hovered around 10 points before Rose-Hulman hit a bucket late to cut the deficit to 42-34 after three.
The fourth quarter was a defensive slugfest that saw the Engineers continue with the momentum, cutting it to 44-40 with 7:00 to play. Neither team would score a point for over four minutes before Kaycee Rowe (Harrod/Allen East) broke the offensive slump with a layup to make it 46-40 with 2:53 left. Sheerer split a pair of free throws for a 47-40 advantage before Rose hit two of their own to get within five. After Beining hit one of two, Chiarra Franklin drilled a jumper to cut it to 48-44 with 28 ticks on the clock. Knight hit a freebie to get it to five but the Engineers knocked down another deuce to make it 49-46. With the game on the line, the Beavers converted 3-of-4 charity tosses down the stretch to cap off their HCAC title run in style!
The Beavers finished the contest shooting just 35.7 percent (15-of-42) from the floor, including a paltry 23.5 percent (4-of-17) in the second half. The Beavers were efficient at a 77.8 percent (21-of-27) clip from the charity stripe. Rose-Hulman finished at 33.3 percent (16-of-48) from the floor. Bluffton cleaned the glass with a 35-28 rebounding edge, but committed two more turnovers than Rose-Hulman (20-18).
The Beavers were led by Tournament MVP Kaitlyn Pennekamp, who scored 14 points off the bench on 5-of-10 shooting and 3-of-3 from the stripe. Macey Sheerer was the only other double figure scorer for Bluffton as she dropped in 10 points and added seven boards and three steals. Taylor Knight also made the All-Tournament team as she scored seven markers and dished out three assists. The other Beaver on the All-Tournament team was Rachel Beining who followed up her double-double in the semifinals with five points and 11 boards in the title game.
Rose-Hulman finished with just one double digit scorer, as Josie Schmidt tallied 10 points and blocked eight shots for the Engineers in the loss, placing her for the All-Tournament team. Alyzia Dilworth joined Schmidt on the All-Tournament Team with a team-high six rebounds in the championship game.
Celia Kline earned her way onto the All-Tournament team for the Transylvania Pioneers for her effort in Friday’s loss to Bluffton and Tuesday's win over Mount St. Joseph.
Bluffton now advances to play its first-ever NCAA Tournament game in school history. The Beavers will learn their opponent and game location on Monday, Feb. 29 at 2:30 p.m. You can watch the show live on NCAA.com and follow along with all the updates on the Bluffton Athletics website and via Twitter @Bluffton_Sports. Congratulations to Bluffton Women's Basketball and GO BEAVERS!