On Saturday, February 25th, the Transylvania Pioneers Women’s Basketball team clinched the Heartland Collegiate athletic conference tournament title for the fifth year in a row, defeating the Hanover College Panthers 85-58 in the championship game. With this win, the Pioneers continue a historic two-year run, moving to 27-0 on the season as they look towards the upcoming NCAA tournament.
Transylvania entered the HCAC tournament as the number-one seed after going undefeated in regular-season conference play. The Pioneers faced the number five seeded Bluffton University Beavers in the semifinals on Friday the 24th, and were able to secure a fairly comfortable 82-55 victory, led by a 21-point and 19-rebound double-double performance by Senior Dasia Thornton. The next day, the Pioneers faced the number two-seeded Panthers in the Championship game. The game was extremely close in the first half, with the score being tied at 21 a piece at the end of the first quarter and a late three-pointer by Senior Kennedi Stacy giving Transy a one-point lead at the break. The Pioneers would pull away in the third quarter, outsourcing Hanover by a margin of 29 to 8. The Pioneers were able to easily protect this lead in the fourth quarter, ultimately coming away with a commanding 85-58 victory.
The HCAC Conference Tournament victory marks the Pioneer’s fifth in a row, an impressive streak dating back to the 2018-2019 season. This also improves the Pioneer’s undefeated record to 27-0, the best in program history. The Pioneers are ranked the Number 2 team in the nation by D3hoops.com, tied for the highest in program history with last year’s team, which went undefeated until the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. Transylvania also had quite a few appearances in the HCAC All-Conference Honors. Senior Madison Kellione was named Co-Player of the Year, Senior Kennedi Stacy was named Defensive Player of the Year, Coach Juli Fulks was named Coach of the Year, Kellione, Stacy, and Senior Dasi Thornton were named to All-Conference First Team, and Senior Laken Ball was named to All-Conference Second Team. This is in addition to Tournament Honors, where Kellione and Thornton were named to the All-Tournament Team, with Thornton additionally being named Tournament MVP.
By earning a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Pioneers have home-court advantage at the Beck Center through the first four rounds of the tournament. Transy will host the Rhodes College Lynx in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 8:15 P.M. on Friday, March 3rd in the Beck Center. If the Pioneers advance to the second round, they would face the winner of a game between the Emory University Eagles and the Millikin University Big Blue at 8:30 P.M. on Saturday the 4th. After that, they would face more opponents in the Beck center the subsequent week in an effort to match and surpass last year’s mark of the Elite Eight, the best in program history.