Hanover, Ind. - Sophomore guard Michael Jefferson scored a career-high 32 points to lead the Transylvania men's basketball team to an 89-77 win over the Franklin College Grizzlies on Saturday night in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals at Collier Arena.
After scoring its highest point output of the season in their most recent contest, the Pioneers registered their third-highest single-game point total of the year on Saturday, led in part by a monster performance from Jefferson.
Galvanized by Jefferson's 32 points, six rebounds, six assists, and four steals, the Pioneers advanced into their first HCAC championship game since the 2011-2012 season and will face the No. 1 seed and host team, Hanover College on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
The sophomore finished the game 14-for-16 from the field, the best field-goal shooting performance over his two-year career.
Jefferson set the tone for an efficient first half, hitting 9 of 10 shots from the floor as the Pioneers picked up steam towards halftime. As a whole, the Pioneers shot 18-for-32 from the field in the first half to build a 45-37 lead at the break.
The Pioneers broke a 21-21 tie with eight minutes to go in the first half by going on a 22-10 run, bolstered by eight straight points from Jefferson and a three-point shot from junior guard Gabe Schmitt with 1:07 to go in the half.
Transylvania continued to apply pressure out of halftime as sophomore forward Lucas Gentry scored back-to-back buckets inside, extending his team's lead to 49-37 with 17:52 left in the game.
Franklin whittled its deficit to 57-51 with 11:41 left, but sophomore guard Will Sivills hit a jumper and Jefferson followed with another consecutive pair of field goals to push the lead back to double digits.
Gentry and senior guard Cooper Theobald aided the second-half production as Gentry scored 17 of his 19 points in the final period on 5-for-8 shooting and added seven rebounds. Theobald provided eight points, knocking down all four of his free throws in the second half.
Gentry tied his career-high with 11 rebounds to lead the Pioneers on the boards and register his second double-double of the season.
Schmitt finished the evening with 10 points, sinking Transylvania's two 3-pointers of the game. Theobald totaled 13 points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block in the victory.
The Pioneers now look ahead to tomorrow's HCAC Championship game against Hanover. The Panthers will be making their third straight appearance in the tournament title game. Sunday's winner will clinch the conference's automatic bid into next weekend's NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament.
Transylvania is aiming for its first NCAA Tournament berth since the 2012-2013 season.
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