HANOVER, Ind. – For the first time in over 10 years, the Hanover men’s basketball team is Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Champions, defeating Mount St. Joseph 58-51 at home on Sunday afternoon.
The win secures No. 16 Hanover (22-3) the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA National Tournament, which will begin next week. The Blue and Red are also the 2016-17 HCAC undisputed champions in men’s basketball, after winning the regular season title with a 16-2 mark in league play.
Hanover’s HCAC Tournament championship is its first since the 2004-05 season, which was also played in Collier Arena. The 2004-05 title capped a three-year run of HC winning the conference tournament title.
Senior Corey Muchmore (Cincinnati, Ohio) earned the HCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player award, as he recorded 18 points and seven rebounds. Muchmore made 8-of-12 field goals in the contest. The senior hit the game-winner in HC’s semifinal contest against Transylvania as well.
Also earning all-tournament accolades was junior Wes McKinney (Batesville, Ind.). McKinney posted a game high 23 points in the win over MSJ, while also grabbing seven rebounds. The junior added 15 points and 14 rebounds in the victory over Transy.
Trailing by two points with just under 6:38 remaining, Hanover secured the automatic bid by outscoring the Lions (20-7) 13-4 down the stretch. McKinney drained two three pointers in the late run by HC.
Hanover had just seven players appear in the contest, with only six finding the scoring column. Muchmore and McKinney combined for over 70 percent of the team’s scoring, totaling 41 of HC’s 58 points.
Sophomore Cam Fails (Mason, Ohio) recorded nine points, while juniors Levi Buck (Pendleton, Ind.) and Colin Smith (Cincinnati, Ohio) tied for the team high in assists with three each. Smith also recorded a team high 10 rebounds.
Both teams started off hot offensively, combining to make the first five shot attempts in the game. Hanover made its first three tries from the floor to lead 7-4. The first half, and the game overall, was played within a tightly contested window, as there were a total of 10 ties and 10 lead changes.
Muchmore had the final bucket of the first half with 35 seconds remaining, giving HC a 28-27 edge at the intermission. The Lions largest lead of the game, five points, came in the first 20 minutes of play.
The first 14 minutes of the second half were played within a five-point window, with HC’s largest advantage being three points and MSJ’s being two points. Overall, the Panthers largest lead was seven points.
Hanover and MSJ were nearly identical in terms of shooting percentages, with the Panthers holding a slight 40-37 edge in overall field goal percentage. Both sides made exactly 20 field goal attempts and five shots from behind the arc. The real difference came at the foul line, where HC was 13-of-19, while the Lions went 6-of-7.
The conference championship marks Hanover’s fourth HCAC Tournament title since the conference realigned and renamed in the 1998-99 season. The Blue and Red will also be making their seventh NCAA National Tournament appearance.
The Panthers will wait to see who their opponent will be and if they are fortunate enough to host the opening two rounds, as the NCAA Selection Show is set for 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 27.