LEXINGTON, Ky. -- If this was the end of an era, the Rose-Hulman Fightin' Engineers didn't go down without a fight.
Kristen Hayes hit a driving layup with 0.4 seconds remaining to lift the nationally ranked Transylvania Pioneers to a 63-61 victory over Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in the championship game of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Tournament on Saturday afternoon.
The 20th-ranked Transylvania squad advances to the NCAA Division III Tournament with a 25-2 record and its 20th consecutive win. Rose-Hulman drops to 20-7 and heads to the NCAA Division III Tournament bubble, and will hope to receive an at-large bid when the NCAA bracket is released on Monday in a 2:30 p.m. selection show.
Abby Bromenschenkel led the Fightin' Engineers with 21 points, six steals, four rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Ally Bromenschenkel added 15 points and 12 rebounds with two blocked shots. Debie Gedeon contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists. All three double-figure scorers played the entire 40 minutes.
Both Bromenschenkel sisters were also named to the all-HCAC Tournament Team following the championship game.
Taylor Graham pitched in with nine points and seven rebounds for Rose-Hulman. Kayla Gerken and Jenna Queary added two points each for Rose-Hulman. Each point of the HCAC championship game scored by Rose-Hulman was scored by a senior.
Transylvania answered with a balanced scoring attack to counter the strong Engineer performance. Celia Kine scored 16 points, Zenoviah Walker added 13, Ashton Woodard scored 12, and Hayes tallied 10 points for the winners. Rose-Hulman outrebounded the Pioneers 41-22 in the game, but Transylvania relied on 17-of-21 from the free throw line to earn the narrow victory.
The game was an absolute classic, with the margin staying within one possession for the last 16:37 of the game. Gedeon scored on a three-pointer and Ally Bromenschenkel scored a layup to turn a 36-31 deficit into a 36-36 tie and give the impression this would be a tight finish.
The score remained tied at 42-42 after the third quarter, setting the stage for a winner-take-all final 10 minutes. Gedeon put Rose-Hulman in front 57-55 on a score with 3:33 left, before Woodard tied the score at 57-57 on two free throws with 1:55 left. Abby Bromenschenkel gave Rose-Hulman the lead again with a driving layup at the 1:41 mark, and Walker answered with a pair of free throws to tie the score again with 1:11 left.
Ally Bromenschenkel hit a 17-foot jumper with 50 seconds left to put the Engineers back on top 61-59. Hayes answered with a driving layup at the 35-second mark to force another tie at 61-61. Abby Bromenschenkel missed a well guarded jumper on the next possession, and Transylvania grabbed the loose rebound on the floor and called timeout with four seconds left to advance the ball into the frontcourt.
Inbounding in front of the Transylvania bench, Hayes passed the ball to Boyle then cut to the basket. Boyle saw Hayes, who drove to the goal and scored on a well defended layup with 0.4 seconds remaining. After advancing the ball following a timeout, Rose-Hulman attempted a lob pass under the basket that was defended by Transylvania to secure the Pioneer victory.
If the record book is complete on the Rose-Hulman women's basketball senior class of six, what a chapter they have written. The overall record in the last four seasons is 90-19, for a program that won 157 games in 21 years prior to their arrival. The class achieved the first three regular season HCAC championships in program history; won the first two HCAC Tournament championships in program history; and made the team's first two appearances in the NCAA Division III Tournament. In addition, the graduating class set an HCAC record with a 38-game winning streak against league foes from January 2017 through January 2019. The senior class also achieved four 20-win seasons in their era, increasing the program's all-time total to five 20-win seasons.
Rose-Hulman entered the HCAC Tournament ranked ninth in the NCAA Division III Great Lakes Region rankings. Typically, teams ranked in the top six in the final regional rankings have the strongest chance to earn at-large bids into the tournament field. Still, this Rose-Hulman group achieved against the odds of program history throughout their careers and will hope for one more chance from the NCAA selection committee on Monday.