Transylvania Women’s Basketball claims third-straight HCAC title, Men fall to Franklin College
Lexington, Ky. (Transy Athletics) – Madison Kellione scored a career-high 26 points on the season’s brightest stage to lead the Transylvania women’s basketball team to its third straight conference tournament championship on Wednesday evening, defeating the Hanover College Panthers, 69-65 in the 2021 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Championship Game at the Beck Center.
The sophomore culminated her first season of collegiate basketball saving her best game for last, coming up with a series of clutch baskets down the tightly-contested fourth quarter to guide the Pioneers to a gritty championship title.
Kellione scored 13 of her 26 points in the final quarter, hitting all four of her field goal attempts including two baskets from downtown to lead the Pioneers back to the HCAC summit.
Transylvania’s 2021 championship cemented its status as an HCAC dynasty with its third straight HCAC Tournament crown. The Pioneers wrapped up another HCAC championship season with a 14-6 record overall, 14-5 against Division III competition, 9-3 against HCAC opponents, and a 3-0 tear through the conference tournament.
Transylvania defeated Hanover for the second straight year in the HCAC Championship game after winning the 2020 title game by 30 points.
The championship rematch one season later entailed a far more dramatic finish that required all 40 minutes of regulation play to decide the winner.
In a feisty first quarter, the Pioneers carved out an 18-14 lead against Hanover behind a significant rebounding advantage that offered the home team its fair share of second-chance opportunities.
The Panthers continued to pursue the Pioneers as they outscored Transy by two points in the second quarter behind the consistent scoring of Liz Tynan’s eight points in the quarter. Kellione began to find her rhythm with a seven-point quarter to spot the Pioneers a 35-33 halftime lead.
Transylvania created a cushion early in the third quarter as Kellione scored on a drive to boost the Pioneers ahead, 43-36 midway through the stanza. Hanover found its three-point shot late in the quarter to close the gap, and a free throw from the Panthers’ Savannah Courtney sent the game into the fourth quarter tied at 48-48.
Grace Shope commenced the fourth quarter with a threeball for the Pioneers to notch a 51-48 advantage before Hanover’s Callie Wilder hit three straight buckets to give the Panthers their first lead since the 7-minute mark of the first quarter as Hanover surged to a 58-54 lead.
Kellione ended Hanover’s mini-run with a straightaway triple, cutting Transy’s deficit to 58-57 with 6:24 left in regulation and answered another Hanover bucket with her second straight three-pointer to tie up the championship game at 60-60 with under five minutes to go.
The game see-sawed towards its final moments and Kellione took control with the championship hanging in the balance. Trailing 64-63, Kellione drove and drew a foul, hitting both free throws with 1:32 remaining in the fourth quarter to put Transylvania back ahead at 65-64.
Hanover retook the lead on a fastbreak with 52 seconds to go, but Kellione delivered again with a turnaround jumper in the paint just 11 seconds later, yielding a 66-65 lead for the Pioneers.
With time winding down, Hanover missed on a go-ahead three-pointer and Elizabeth Hardiman secured the rebound, leading to Zenoviah Walker being fouled. Walker nailed both free throws to give the Pioneers a three-point cushion with 11 seconds remaining, and Hanover’s attempt at a tie ended in a missed midrange jumper. Shope wrapped up the game with a made free throw and the Pioneers celebrated their third conference crown.
Kellione scored 13 of Transylvania’s 15 points during the critical stretch of the fourth quarter which ended with the sophomore putting her team ahead for good with 41 seconds left in regulation. Kellione was named the HCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player for delivering one of the most iconic performances in tournament championship history.
Walker posted 10 points, six rebounds, a game-high four assists, and two steals in her final game as a Pioneer to wrap up her career with three consecutive HCAC titles. Walker was named along with Kellione to the HCAC All-Tournament Team. Shope finished with 10 points, four rebounds, and two steals in a winning effort for Transylvania. Dasia Thornton added a team-high nine rebounds off the bench and scored five points.
The Pioneers hit on 16 of 22 free throws and shot 36 percent from the field while the Panthers hit 44 percent from the field and were held to 2 for 12 shooting from three-point range. Transylvania won the battle of the boards, 45-34.
Transylvania’s 2021 title marks the first time under seventh-year Pioneer head coach Juli Fulks that the program has won three consecutive conference tournament championships.
The Transylvania men’s basketball team’s drive to repeat as conference tournament champions was denied by the Franklin College Grizzlies, who defeated the Pioneers, 74-53 in the 2021 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Championship game on Wednesday evening at the Beck Center.
Appearing in the HCAC Championship game for the second straight season, the Pioneers sought to close out an unconventional season with back-to-back conference tournament championships but were stifled inside by the upstart Grizzlies, who claimed the title with steady interior play.
Transylvania’s encore season as conference regular-season and tournament champions ended at 8-9 overall, 8-4 against non-Division I opponents, and 8-4 against HCAC opponents including postseason play. Franklin completed its campaign with a win to finish 9-6 overall.
Hosting the championship game for the second consecutive game after being awarded the tournament number two seed in a blind draw, the Pioneers faced off against the number five seeded Grizzlies on Wednesday for the first time in the 2021 season after their two regular-season games were canceled.
Franklin worked its way to a strong start with a steady dose of inside and outside shooting, hitting 49 percent from the field in the first half and making 4 of 13 three-point attempts. The Pioneers manifested an array of inside drives but struggled to convert, shooting 25 percent from the field and making 2 of 9 triples in the opening half.
Trailing by 14 at halftime, the Pioneers made a series of runs in the second half as they tried to complete the comeback against the Grizzlies. Lucas Gentry struck inside on a three-point play with 15:26 left in the second half to slice the Franklin lead in half at 39-32, four and a half minutes into the second half. The Grizzlies countered each Transylvania run with a timely three-pointer and efficient inside scoring as their lead grew back to double figures.
Zach Larimore led one last stand for the Pioneers, scoring seven straight points for the home team to cut Franklin’s lead to 54-47 with five and a half minutes left in regulation. The Pioneers began to press the Grizzlies and found success, forcing a collection of turnovers as the game headed down the stretch, but HCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player Mat Krause struck back with a critical four-point play at the 5:13 mark to steady the Grizzlies.
Krause’s key play ignited a 13-0 Franklin run that sealed the championship for Franklin.
Michael Jefferson led Transylvania in his final career game as a Pioneer with 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Gentry’s final collegiate game consisted of 13 points and two rebounds. Larimore was the other double-digit scorer for Transy with 11 points, and added five rebounds. Seniors Dominique Turner and Gavin Root had seven and three points, respectively, while Will Anderson added a rebound in his final game for the Pioneers.
Jefferson and Gentry were each named to the 2021 HCAC All-Tournament Team for their high-level performances throughout the HCAC Tournament.
The March 10th championship game rounded out a unique year for the Transylvania men’s basketball team and the collegiate basketball landscape as a whole, one day short of the one-year anniversary of the instant halting of sports nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After enduring delays to the start of the season, the Pioneers began their 2020-21 season against five Division I teams from the state of Kentucky in December and played a condensed 10-game regular-season schedule versus a collection of HCAC foes, eventually earning their way back to a second consecutive HCAC Championship appearance.