The dream season for the men’s and women’s basketball teams will be continuing into March as both teams managed to cut the nets Sunday at the Beck center. While some chance plays a role in any contest, the Pioneers managed to take full advantage of their no. 1 seed and home court advantage to punch their ticket to the Division III National Tournament in front of a crowd of screaming fans.
The women have been dominant all year and this tournament showed nothing less. In the Semifinals against Bluffton, the team jumped out to a 13 point lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back, finishing with a decisive (74-45) win to advance into the championship game against Hanover. While that finish was to be expected, the following match was anticipated to be a tough competitive game as the teams had split during regular season and each brought forth a (17-1) HCAC conference record into the tournament. Yet, when the teams met on Sunday, Transylvania was clearly the superior team. In the first half alone, the Pioneers deep bench and efficient scoring capability prevailed giving the Pioneers a 31 point lead (60-29). From there, the game was never in doubt and 11 Pioneers put points on the board to finish off Hanover with a score of (91-61). The team relied on a balance attack and were buoyed by the trio of guards, seniors Ashton Woodard and Shelby Boyle, and junior Zenoviah Walker who together contributed 49 points towards the cause with Walker also turning in an impressive 9 rebounds.
On March 2, it was announced that team will once again host the opening rounds of the State tournament and will take on Randolph-Macon at 6p.m. this Friday, March 6. Tickets as of now will be $5.00 for college students. Transylvania will look to build upon their Sweet 16 appearance last season and should come in confident after a dominant HCAC tournament and a current No. 9 national ranking.
The men also managed to come out on top of the HCAC on Sunday, but in much more competitive fashion. Winning the semifinals and championship by a combined 9 points, the Pioneers managed to capitalize on their home court advantage to punch their ticket to the state tournament for the first time since 2013. While the semifinal match against Anderson was competitive, it looked like a blowout compared to the nail-biter against Rose-Hulman for the title. In the second half, the largest lead at any point was just five points with lead changes and missed shots seeming to never end. Though Transylvania shot an abysmal 28.6% field goal percentage, the team prevailed in the turnover and foul shot percentage statistics allowing them to close out the game with a one point advantage (49-48). Junior Guard Michael Jefferson and junior Forward Lucas Gentry led the Pioneers in both points and rebounds and were a steady influence throughout the contested contest. The team learned they will travel to Naperville, Illinois to take on the defending champion, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh at North Central College on March 6, at 6p.m. in the opening round.
Overall, this season marks a significant peak in the Transylvania basketball program. For Transylvania to have both basketball teams make it to the state tournament makes them the envy of any collegiate university. It will be interesting to see how far this group of college kids from Lexington can go and what history can be made in 2020.