Despite a 45-36 loss to league leader Rose-Hulman Wednesday night, the Franklin College women’s basketball team remains confident it will secure a spot in the upcoming Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s postseason tournament.
The Fightin’ Engineers (17-3, 12-1), who shared a conference championship last season with Bluffton, remain atop the 10-team standings, two games ahead of Bluffton with only five games left on the regular-season schedule.
The Grizzlies (9-10, 7-6) are currently sixth in the conference. The top six teams qualify for the HCAC tournament, which gets underway Feb. 21.
Heading to the fourth quarter with the game tied at 31-31, Rose-Hulman went on a 12-0 run keyed by the inside play of junior forward Alyzia Dilworth. But it was the Fightin’ Engineers defense that clamped down in the final period, limiting the Grizzlies to only three free throws.
“It’s been a difficult year for us with the ups and downs,” Franklin senior guard Mandy Fisher said. “We’re just trying to come together as a team right now. There have been a number of changes in our lineup over the last three games and we’re hoping things fall into place at the right time.
“I know as seniors we really want to end this season on a high note.”
The Grizzlies got off to a good start behind the shooting of Fisher, who scored six of Franklin’s first 12 points. And were it not for 13 first half turnovers, Franklin was in a good position to go up by double digits before the half ended.
But Rose-Hulman, with a distinct height advantage, was able to get inside with Dilworth and 6-foot-1 inch Ally Bromenschenkel to get its first lead at 14-12.
Franklin went scoreless in the second period until the 2:20 mark, when freshman guard Taylor Baxter cashed in with a 3-pointer. The only other basket came on another 3 by senior Kaylee Comer, leaving Rose-Hulman on top at the break 20-18.
Franklin coach Dana Haggenjos continued to use nearly all of her bench, with 14 players logging minutes.
“We are just looking for what works best for us and what gets us going,” Fisher said. “It’s a friendly competition.”
Fisher, coming off a career-high 21-point performance in the Grizzlies’ win last Saturday against Earlham, paced the team Wednesday with nine points.
Dilworth led the way for the Fightin’ Engineers with 19 points.
Franklin will be at home Saturday for a men’s and women’s doubleheader against HCAC rival Defiance.