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Franklin College women fall to HCAC’s top team

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Junior guard Nicole Coffman scored 18 of her game-high 30 points in the first half to lead visiting Transylvania to a 72-54 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference victory against the Franklin College women’s basketball team Wednesday night.

The win by the league-leading Pioneers widened the gap between them and the third-place Grizzlies, who are now four games off the pace with only three contests left in the regular season.

Transylvania’s sixth straight win avenged a 91-83 win by Franklin at Transylvania on Jan. 22.

The top six teams qualify for the conference tournament the week of Feb. 25.

The big difference in Wednesday’s game at Franklin’s Spurlock Center was Transylvania’s ability to score in transition.

The Pioneers (20-2, 14-1) forced the Grizzlies into 21 turnovers, with 14 coming in the second half.

Franklin’s only lead came in the opening minutes when it grabbed a 5-0 advantage, but from there Transylvania methodically worked its offense to near perfection.

With crisp ball movement and Franklin’s inability to clog the passing lanes, Coffman and senior guard Katelyn Smith upped the Transylvania lead to 27-18 with a little over five minutes left in the half.

Coffman leads the conference in scoring, averaging 21.1 points per game, while Smith is second with a per-game average of 19.1.

The Pioneers also won the rebound battle 43-39, with 15 coming at the offensive end of the floor, giving them two and sometimes three shots at the basket.

Coming out of the break trailing 37-30, the Grizzlies played more relaxed and picked up their defense considerably.

Freshman guard Lauren DeSutter’s 3-pointer pulled Franklin College within five points at 42-37 but missed offensive opportunities and additional turnovers gave the Pioneers the momentum they needed the rest of the way.

Transylvania also capitalized at the free-throw line, hitting 18 of 22 attempts and 6 of 16 outside the 3-point arc.

The Pioneers’ lead grew to 14 points with a little more than seven minutes remaining on a 3-pointer by Coffman, her fourth of the night in seven tries.

Joining Coffman in double-figures were senior Madison Webb, who scored 12 points and hauled down 13 rebounds, and Smith, who added 11 and eight boards for the winners.

Franklin (12-10, 10-5), meanwhile, got a team-leading 13 points and 14 rebounds from sophomore forward Katie Brewer, a Roncalli High School graduate. DeSutter added nine and junior forward Nichole Thompson scored eight points and added six rebounds.

The Grizzlies hit the road for the final three games of the regular season, with their first stop at conference rival Earlham College at 1 p.m Saturday.

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