Defiance, OH. – Led by junior Alex Jones's season-high 31 points, the No. 6 seed Transylvania men's basketball team staged a double-digit comeback, upending No. 3 seeded Hanover College, 77-67 on Friday night in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference quarterfinal matchup.
With the win, the Pioneers advance to the conference semifinal game on Saturday to face the No. 2 seed Mount St. Joseph Lions of Cincinnati, Ohio.
After spending the majority of the game trailing Hanover, the Pioneers used a 12-2 run to blast past the Panthers in the final four-minute stretch of the tourney quarterfinal. Before the furious finish, Transylvania did all they could to hold firm with the stunned Panthers.
Hanover, who led by as many as 11 points in the first half, held a 41-33 lead over Transylvania at intermission. Jones hit 7-of-13 shots from the field and 2-of-3 from 3-point range on the way to a 16-point first half.
Senior guard Lowell Gordon chipped in with five points of his own in the first period to help keep Transylvania in the game.
Nearly two minutes into the second half, Hanover drained a 3-pointer for a 45-35 lead. Then the Pioneers began to respond.
Jones continued his assault on the bucket with a jumper at the 17:56 mark. Sophomore forward Robert Dence joined in with a jump shot and Stansberry took his turn draining a triple. Theobald continued attacking the rim and drained four free throws as part of an extended 15-5 Transylvania run elapsing nearly six minutes, eventually leading to a 50-all tie at the 12:16 mark.
For the following six minutes, Hanover rediscovered their three point shot to create some ground between them and the Pios.
Leading 62-57 with less than six minutes remaining, Hanover witnessed Theobald slash to the rim once more and sent him to the line for two charity makes. On the next possession, Stansberry went hard to the basket for an old-fashioned three-point play to tie the game at 62 apiece.
Transy eventually took the lead at 65-64 with an ensuing Theobald three-point play at the four minute mark and never looked back, scoring 10 unanswered points the rest of the way. Stansberry provided one more three-point play for his Pioneers for a 68-65 lead, galvanizing an effort to ensure his collegiate career would last at least 24 more hours. The Pioneers dug in and got stop after stop late against the Panthers, who had no choice but to foul Jones, who obliged at the foul line seven times inside the final two minutes of the game.
The Pioneers shot 84.2 percent from the free throw line, going 16-for-19 in the second half. Transylvania also outrebounded the Panthers 20-to-11 in the second half to minimize Hanover's second chances.
While capitalizing on nearly every Hanover foul and relinquishing few opportunities to the Panthers, Transylvania outscored Hanover 44-26 in the second half.
Both clubs traded wins on each other's home court during the regular season but the Pioneers came away with the crucial neutral site win tonight to keep their season alive and to move on in the HCAC tournament.
Transylvania is awarded the opportunity to battle the league co-champion Lions of Mount St. Joseph tomorrow in the semifinal round. The two teams split their regular season series as well, each earning a win on the road. Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m.
Should the Pioneers pass tomorrow's test, they would advance to the conference championship game held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.
For the latest on Transylvania men's basketball at the tournament, follow their official twitter account @TransyHoops