DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
Whenever the Franklin College and Hanover women’s basketball teams play, the finish is almost always exciting.
Wednesday night’s matchup at Franklin was no exception.
The game was tied seven times before the Panthers went on a 10-0 run with a little more than seven minutes remaining en route to a 61-54 win.
Franklin and Hanover entered the night tied for second place in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference with identical 9-3 records.
During the 10-point stretch that broke a 41-all tie, Hanover senior guard Alicia Hopkins hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Grizzlies never got closer than four points the rest of the way.
Backcourt defensive pressure by Hanover forced Franklin into eight first-half turnovers and a total of 18 by game’s end.
With senior forward Nichole Thompson out with an illness and sophomore guard Lauren DeSutter plagued with two fouls in the first half, Franklin’s offense was marginalized by Hanover’s tenacious defense.
Coming out of halftime with Hanover up 20-19, Franklin junior center Katie Brewer gave Franklin a big lift by getting inside the paint for three easy layups.
The Grizzlies also got help from the guard play of freshman Kelsey Smith, who finished with 11 points to go with five rebounds.
Franklin’s biggest lead of 37-32 came with 12 minutes left on the strength of Brewer’s inside play and Smith and sophomore guard Mandy Fisher working the perimeter.
Hopkins, who started the fireworks with her 3-point shooting, closed with a game-high 16 points.
In an effort to catch up, Franklin was forced to foul in the final two minutes.
Hanover sophomore Jessie Davidson, who added 15 points, converted 5 of 6 free throws to seal the Panthers victory.
For Franklin, Brewer finished with a team-high 14 points and 14 rebounds. Fisher also was in double figures with 11 points.
Hanover shot 35.2 percent (19 of 54) from the field and Franklin shot 36.5 percent (23-63).
Franklin won the battle of the boards 47-37.
With the loss, Franklin (11-8, 9-4) falls one game back of second-place Hanover and four games back of league-leader Transylvania.
The top six teams qualify for the conference tournament.
Franklin travels to conference rival Bluffton on Saturday.