Lexington, Ky. – The No. 18 Transylvania women's basketball team crossed into a new frontier on Saturday evening, defeating the Oglethorpe University Stormy Petrels 76-56 in the second round of the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament at the Beck Center.
The Pioneers advanced into the "Sweet 16" round of the NCAA Tournament with the win, the first time the team has moved into the sectionals of the tournament since moving to the NCAA classification from the NAIA in the early-2000s.
Boosted by a signature three-point barrage in the second quarter, the Pioneers erupted for a double-digit lead in the first half and never looked back, showing off the excesses of their offensive powers to march into to the second week of NCAA Tournament play.
Transylvania senior guard Celia Kline guided the Pioneers into the Sweet 16 with a 6-for-7 three-point shooting performance in the first half, finishing the game with a game-high 25 points.
Junior guard Ashton Woodard had an all-around game with 11 points, nine rebounds, and five assists as she offered two additional three-pointers in a first half three-ball avalanche.
The Stormy Petrels came out with a high dose of energy to begin the evening, blazing out to a 5-0 lead before the Pioneers worked their way into their comfortable home rhythm. Senior guard Kristen Hayes found a seam inside to put the Pioneers on the board and later attacked the hoop, leading the way to a pair of free throws to bring Transy closer.
Oglethorpe responded with a three on the next possession for an 8-4 advantage before the Pioneers put together their first offensive burst of the night. Junior guard Shelby Boyle struck paydirt with a much-needed three-pointer and Kline pulled up on the next possession to bury the first of her six first-half 3-pointers to the delight of the crowd, handing the Pioneers their first lead of the night at 10-8.
The pair of triples jumpstarted a 14-2 run to end the quarter for Transylvania as the Pioneers forged an 18-10 advantage.
Transylvania's lead grew larger as Kline hit a triple at the 8:35 mark of the second quarter to put the Pioneers ahead, 21-12. Over the next few minutes, the Pioneers and Stormy Petrels traded buckets before Kline struck twice in a row from outside to lift Transylvania to a 31-19 advantage.
The onslaught continued as Hayes helped the Pioneers to a 35-19 lead with a pair of free throws before Kline knocked down another three-pointer with 2:48 left in the half. Kline added her final dagger when sophomore center Elizabeth Hardiman gathered in an offensive rebound and the ball found the senior again, padding a 41-21 Transylvania lead.
Woodard added the sixth and final three-pointer of the second quarter just before the half to complete a 6-for-10 Pioneer shooting exhibition from outdoors in the second, sending Transylvania into the half with a 44-25 upper hand.
In all, the Pioneers shot 10-for-19 from three-point range over the first half as their double-digit lead would hold for the rest of the night.
Sophomore guard Zenoviah Walker led the Pioneers with a six-point third quarter while setting the tone toward stout team defense as the home team held Oglethorpe to a 6-for-17 quarter from the field while maintaining a 60-40 lead after three quarters.
As they did the night before in their first-round game against Piedmont, the Pioneers went cold to start the fourth quarter, but on Saturday, Transylvania answered each Oglethorpe bucket, wearing down the Petrels as they approached the finish line.
Senior guard Taylor Jackson buried two free throws to raise Transy's lead back to 21 points at 69-48 with three minutes left in the contest, closing the door on Oglethorpe and bringing in the ladders for the Pioneers to cut down the nets.
Boyle finished the night with 10 points, three rebounds, and two assists while Hayes was the other double-digit scorer for the Pioneers with 11 points on 7-for-8 free throw shooting to go with six rebounds and two assists. Walker's multi-faceted line included eight points, five rebounds, and three assists.
Transylvania finished the game 12-for-29 from outside (41 percent) and hit on 26-of-31 free throws by fending off heavy defensive pressure from the Petrels all evening. The Pioneers won the battle of the boards against Oglethorpe's formidable front line, outrebounding the Petrels 41-34.
The Pioneers will take on their Bluegrass neighbors, the No. 1 nationally-ranked Thomas More College Saints in the sectional semifinal next Friday at a time and location to be determined on Sunday morning. The undefeated Saints defeated No. 5 Trine University on Saturday evening to set the stage for an all-Kentucky Sweet 16 game.
The sectional of Thomas More and Transylvania's pod will also include No. 22 Washington University in St. Louis and No. 12 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, who also advanced into the Sweet 16 with second-round wins on Saturday.
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