Lexington, Ky. – Junior guard Shelby Boyle exploded for 22 points and 11 rebounds as the No. 18 Transylvania women’s basketball team delivered a 77-67 victory over the Piedmont College Lions in the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Tournament First Round game on Friday night at the Beck Center.
Playing in their first NCAA Tournament game in four years, the Pioneers stamped their ticket to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2013-2014 season as they collected their first NCAA postseason victory under fifth-year head coach Juli Fulks on Friday.
The Pioneers extended their win streak to 21 games, their longest in over a decade as they advanced to a second-round matchup on Saturday with Oglethorpe University, which won over the University of Chicago in the first matchup of a Friday doubleheader hosted by Transylvania.
Transylvania’s record improved to 26-2 while time ran out on a stellar season for the Lions at 23-6.
The Pioneers showed off the best of their offense in the first three quarters before the Lions made a harrowing run at the home team in the fourth quarter. Transylvania fended off Piedmont’s concerted charge, putting away the game at the free-throw line.
Three other Pioneers scored in double figures on Friday as junior guard Ashton Woodard added 17 points on a 7-for-9 night at the free-throw line, also hitting both of her three-point attempts.
Sophomore guard Zenoviah Walker had 11 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals while sophomore center Elizabeth Hardiman went off for a career-high 15 points off the bench, hitting all six of her field goals and all three of her free throws.
Friday’s first quarter featured high-octane offense for both the Pioneers and Lions as each side shot better than 50 percent from the field, leading to a 24-18 Transylvania advantage. Boyle scored her first eight points in the opening period while Woodard added seven to set the offensive tone for the Pioneers.
The Pioneers established the upper hand in the following ten minutes, beginning the second quarter on a 17-2 run to outscore Piedmont 20-8 for the quarter. Hardiman scored the first five points of the quarter and Woodard followed with a crafty change-of-pace move to lead to an old-fashioned three-point play, boosting the Pioneers to a 32-20 lead with 6:33 to go in the half.
Walker made an open-court steal and accelerated the other way for a layup, and sophomore center Miranda Otero and senior guard Celia Kline each hit a pair of free throws to add to the run. Boyle splashed a three-point shot from up top to grow Transylvania’s largest lead of the night at 41-20 with 2:19 left before the halftime break.
Piedmont found offense late before the half but Boyle torched the nets again with a triple at the 1:11 mark of the second quarter to lift the Pioneers to a 44-26 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Hardiman raised her game to another level as she poured in eight points on 4-for-4 shooting from the field while adding three rebounds in the period. Boyle and Woodard remained steady as the two veterans combined for nine points on 3-for-4 shooting from the floor, sending the Pioneers into the fourth quarter with an 18-point lead.
Piedmont made a furious comeback in the fourth quarter, outscoring Transylvania 15-4 over the first six and a half minutes on long-tenured defensive stops and a slew of key turnovers forced. Piedmont forward Hope Franklin scored from close range with 3:37 to go in the fourth quarter to cut Transy’s lead to 69-62; Transylvania senior guard Kristen Hayes responded with a strong drive on which she was fouled to advance to the free-throw line, where she hit both shots, lifting the Pioneers back to a nine-point lead with 1:57 left in the game.
The Pioneers forced another stop and the Lions fouled Kline, who was dependable on both foul shots. Transylvania stood strong against Piedmont’s final charge, hitting all 10 of their free throws in the fourth quarter despite only shooting 1-for-8 from the floor over that stretch.
“This is an upperclassman group, they know what they’re doing,” said Fulks of the Pioneers’ resilience in weathering Piedmont’s final run. “I have a lot of trust and faith in them, we know they’re going to figure it out. There might be some bumps in the road but they always respond and I think that’s a really important strength of theirs.”
Transylvania finished the evening shooting 50 percent from the field and hit on 7-of-17 three-pointers on the night. The Pioneers limited Piedmont to 6-of-21 shooting from three-point range (29 percent). The Pioneers hit 24-of-28 free throws on Friday.
The Pioneers became the first Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference women’s basketball team to claim an NCAA Tournament victory since the Pioneers won over Ohio Northern in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tourney.
Transylvania will aim for a bid into the “Sweet 16” round of the NCAA Tournament tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. as the Pioneers host Oglethorpe at the Beck Center.
For more on Transylvania women’s basketball, follow @TUWBX on Twitter
Head to Tournament Central to track the NCAA Tournament