Spartans clinch HCAC tourney bid

Spartans clinch HCAC tourney bid

NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – Manchester University took advantage of strong efforts from several sources to topple Earlham College 61-43 in its regular season finale Saturday, Feb. 16.

The Spartans, closing a 2-0 week, were the beneficiaries of scoring from 10 players. Junior forward Erynn Meiklejohn (Fort Wayne, Ind.), wrapping up a two-game span in which she averaged 16 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, led the attack with 12 points, three blocked shots, two steals, two assists and seven rebounds. Sophomore guard Jocelyn Hamilton (Columbus, Ind.) just missed scoring double figures with nine points to go with four assists and five rebounds, while sophomore guard Caitlyn Ailor (Ossian, Ind.) added eight points.

 "We saw some players continue to develop today which is exciting," Coach Josh Dzurick said. "As two examples, Caitlyn (Ailor) really took the ball to the basket for us well early when we needed to get our offense going, and Justine (Kruger) had some nice finishes on some reverse lay-ups in the second half. Overall, it was a good team win.

"It was good to see us end the regular season like this," he added. "Of the 16 games before these two this week, 15 of them had gone down to the last two minutes. I feel our young team got a lot of experience from that and is growing from it."

MU, improving to 10-15 overall and 9-9 in league play, had to battle past a determined early effort from the Quakers (4-20, 3-15 HCAC). Earlham led off-and-on through the first 14 minutes before the Black and Gold went on a 12-3 run to end the half. The visitors trimmed the deficit to three (31-28) early in the second stanza, but the Spartans responded with a 17-4 stretch to open the lead to 16 points.

The victory clinched a berth in the 2013 HCAC postseason tournament which begins Friday, Feb. 22, at the Beck Center on Transylvania University's campus in Lexington, Ky. MU, the fifth seed, will take on fourth-seeded Defiance at 6 p.m. in one of two quarterfinal games. The winner advances to a 3 p.m. semifinal Saturday, Feb. 23, against league champion and tourney host Transylvania.

NOTES: Meiklejohn's recent roll has helped her points-per-game average rise seven-tenths (8.5-9.2) and her rebounds-per-game go up a tenth (4.4-4.5). She also harbors a string of five consecutive games with at least four made field goals while blocking at least two opponent shot attempts in two of her last three contests. … Hamilton's four assists continued an impressive run where she's dished out multiples in nine of the last 10 games. … A poignant moment was observed early in the contest when Manchester University sophomore forward Shelby Morphew (Brownsburg, Ind.) scored a lay-up for the Spartans' first two points. Due to medical hardship issues, Morphew's collegiate playing career has been cut short. She received a standing ovation from the crowd inside Stauffer-Wolfe Arena. "We appreciate very much the sportsmanship the coaching staff and the team from Earlham showed in allowing this to occur," Dzurick said.