By: Joseph Watkins, sports information assistant
HANOVER, Ind. - The Bluffton University men's basketball team dropped a 69-49 decision to Hanover in the semifinals of the Heartland Conference Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 23. Top seed and host Hanover College will play the Transylvania-Franklin winner for the HCAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tourney on Sunday at 2 p.m. Bluffton wrapped up its season with a school-record tying 18-9 mark, while the Panthers improved to 20-6 on the season.
The Beavers fell behind early when Hanover's Cam Fails drained a three-point shot that made the score 17-6 in favor of the Panthers with 12:16 left in the first half. The visitors would not cave in and they stayed within striking distance when sophomore Aaron Rich (Greenville) hit a chip shot that pulled them within seven (34-27) heading into the break.
A pair of Brevin Dye (Bedford Heights/Trinity) buckets kept the Beavers within 11 midway through the second half (48-37), but three Bluffton points over the next seven minutes sealed the outcome as Hanover pushed the spread to 66-42 with just over four minutes to play. Seniors Jared Wentling (Carey), Justis Dowdy (Van Wert/Lincolnview) and Michael Pickel (Dayton/Ashland University) all made a final appearance before the horn sounded on the 2018-19 season with Hanover posting a 69-49 victory over the Beavers.
Rich led the Beavers with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. He also ripped down a team-high eight rebounds. Wentling bucketed seven points in his final game as a Beaver, while Dye just missed double figures with nine markers. Renner doled out a career-high tying seven assists for the visitors. Freshman Jameel Cosby (Springfield/Kenton Ridge) earned HCAC All-Tournament Team honors for his work at Hanover on Friday and Saturday!
The Beavers hit 21-of-48 from the field for 43.8 percent, compared to 26-of-54 (48.1 percent) for the Panthers. Bluffton struggled mightily with a 1-of-13 display from three-point land (7.7 percent), while the Panthers were not much better, going 3-of-12 (25 percent) from behind the arc. Hanover outrebounded the Beavers (34-25) and Bluffton turned the ball over four more times than the Panthers (16-12).
Although the season ended sooner than the men wanted, there are plenty of positives to take forward into the off-season. The Beavers will return a plethora of key personnel going into the 2019-20 campaign. We hope to see you at the Sommer Center next fall when the Beavers are back on the hardcourt!
Check out the Bluffton Athletics Website for the All-Heartland Conference awards which are slated to be announced on Wednesday, Feb. 27.