Terre Haute Ind. – The Transylvania women's basketball team's quest for the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship fell just short as the Pioneers dropped a 57-51 final to the No. 1 seed Rose-Hulman Fightin' Engineers at Hulbert Arena on Saturday evening.
Trailing by 11 points in the fourth quarter, the Pioneers made a late charge, cutting the deficit to two points with under three minutes left in regulation before the Engineers held on with a pair of free throws and key defensive stops to clinch their second-consecutive conference tournament title over the Pioneers.
Leading the way for Transylvania on offense was junior guard Celia Kline, who scored 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field including 5-of-8 from beyond three-point range.
Sophomore guard Ashton Woodard turned in a strong performance for Transylvania composed of 14 points, four assists, and two rebounds in a memorable championship game.
Also hitting double-figures for the Pioneers was senior forward Rachel Cox, who scored 11 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and blocked five shots in a game where every defensive possession mattered.
Early in the game, Kline was automatic from deep, knocking down 4-of-6 three-pointers and recording 14 of her 19 points in the first half to keep the Pioneers neck-and-neck with Rose-Hulman.
Even with the strong half from Kline, Transylvania still trailed Rose-Hulman 22-25 at halftime.
Rose-Hulman took control of the game in the third quarter, outscoring Transylvania 18-11 to push the lead to 43-33. Woodard led the Pioneers with five points in the quarter.
The Pioneers made one last run at the Engineers in the fourth quarter using a combination of scrappy play and full-court defense. With 2:39 left in the game, freshman guard Zenoviah Walker knocked down a free throw to cut the Rose-Hulman lead to 50-48.
However, Rose-Hulman regained its composure and knocked down seven free throws down the stretch to pull out the 57-51 victory.
Following the game, Cox and Kline were both named to the All-Tournament team for their strong performances throughout the weekend.
With the loss the Pioneers moved to 21-6 overall and 16-4 against HCAC opponents, while Rose-Hulman moved to 24-3 overall and 20-0 against HCAC opponents on the season.
By clinching the conference tournament title, the Engineers clinch the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, which begins next Friday.
Transylvania will now be forced to rely on an at-large bid to earn a potential spot in the NCAA Division III tournament. The Pioneers will learn their fate during the tournament selection show on Monday, February 26 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time. The show can be streamed live on NCAA.com.
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