HANOVER, Ind. - Westminster men's basketball ends their season with a tough battle in the NCAA Tournament against Hanover, eventually falling 72-64.
The Blue Jays end their season 19-9.
"I'm very proud of how our guys responded to adversity all season long and tonight was an example of that," said Westminster Head Coach Matt Mitchell. "We had many good opportunities early in the game to stretch the lead, but I feel we weren't aggressive enough in the early part of the game."
The Blue Jays stayed close to the Panthers of Hanover at the start of the game. After the first media timeout, the score was 8-7.
A 7-0 run from Westminster, starting with three made freethrows from Romo Tabb, put the Blue Jays up 14-8 with 12:05 remaining in the first half. The six-point lead for Westminster would be their largest of the game.
"Romo getting hot at key moments kept us in the game," said Mitchell of the junior. "On top of that, he had a very difficult defensive assignment."
The Panthers responded with a 9-1 run of their own and never looked back. Westminster managed to tie the score at 18 at the 8:20 mark, but couldn't regain their early lead.
Westminster dropped to a double-digit deficit with under four minutes to play, but a 7-0 run on five points from Tabb and Sean O'Brien put the Blue Jays back within seven points. At the halftime break, the score was 37-30 in favor of Hanover.
Tabb hit a layup to open the half for Westminster to put the Hanover lead at just five points, but the Panthers responded in the following minutes to put their lead back to double-digits at 12 points.
A 10-0 run from Hanover would give the Panthers their largest lead of the game at 55-38, but Westminster hadn't given up just yet.
The Blue Jays went on a 16-2 run starting at the 9:45 mark and spanning to the 6:00 mark to put Westminster back within three points. The run was led by a crew of four bench players and Tabb. Cody Shaw and Colin Caywood hit three-pointers in the run while Zach Nelson and Stu Hollandsworth each scored four points for Westminster, Tabb scoring the remaining four.
"We came into the game very beat up and with some key injuries," said Mitchell. "Our bench played extremely well to give us a chance."
The Blue Jays continued to trade buckets with the Panthers, getting as close as just two points away from taking the lead on jump shots from O'Brien, Nelson, and Tanner Cochran.
A foul from Nelson with 1:33 to play put the Panthers in the bonus up 70-64, and Westminster couldn't score the points to stay in the game in the final minute.
Tabb led the team with 23 points, including 16 in the first half, while shooting 8-18 from the field and 4-6 from behind the arc.
O'Brien also scored in double-digits for Westminster, recording 14 points.
"Regardless of tonight's outcome, I'm very proud of this group of guys," said Mitchell. "They get along extremely well and represented Blue Jay nation in a first-class manner."
Post-game press conference