Feb. 20 – HIRAM, Ohio – Already in the midst of their best season in program history, the Hiram College women's basketball team will look to do something else that no other Terrier squad has done when the team takes the floor on Tuesday evening.
Price Gymnasium will serve as the backdrop for the Terriers' first-ever home playoff game as Hiram (17-8, 9-7 NCAC), the #4 seed in the upcoming North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament, will play host to #5 Oberlin College.
Hiram earned hosting rights for the quarterfinal round by knocking off both Denison and second-seeded Kenyon in the final week. Thanks to those results, the Terriers finished the regular season in a four-way tie for third with Wittenberg, Ohio Wesleyan and the Big Red. The Battling Bishops captured the third seed, with Hiram beating out both Wittenberg and Denison for the fourth seed due to tiebreaker scenarios.
The Terriers earned their first-ever fourth seed thanks to a year in which they set the standard for which future Hiram teams will be measured.
Hiram, who was selected eighth in the NCAC Preseason Coaches' Poll, quickly shattered expectations by opening the year with a 10-2 mark through their first 12 games. In that time, the Terriers went 6-0 against non-conference teams and tallied a 3-2 record in conference, including wins over Wittenberg, Wooster and Allegheny.
Following the Christmas break, Hiram posted a 6-5 mark during the brunt of the conference season. Throughout the year, the Terriers earned at least a split with eight of the nine conference teams, and swept the season series over Allegheny and Wooster. Only DePauw, who earned the #1 overall seed in the upcoming tournament, avoided a loss to the Terriers.
The Terriers earned first-round hosting rights thanks in large part to their hard-nosed defensive efforts. Hiram ranked first in the NCAC in not only steals per game (11.7), but also led the conference in forcing opponents' turnovers (19.7). Eight times on the season, Hiram forced 20 or more opponent turnovers, while collecting 20+ steals, twice.
On the offensive end of the floor, Hiram ranked third in the NCAC in points per game (63.2). The Terriers showed the ability to get to the free-throw line more than any other team in the conference, leading the NCAC in attempts (517), made free throws (382) and percentage (.739).
Individually, Hiram has been led this season by junior Mercedes Jones, who ranks second in the NCAC in points per game (14.4) while sitting in the top ten in rebounds per night (5.8). The two-time All-NCAC performer has broken 20 points, eight times on the season, including a high of 25 points, three times.
Other leaders for the Terriers have included Kaylee Shockley and Kayla Yost. Both hovering near ten points per night, Shockley led the NCAC regular season in steals per game (2.6), while Yost ranks third in the conference in rebounds per night (6.9).
Tuesday night, as Hiram makes its 11th appearance in the NCAC Championship Tournament, the Terriers and the Yeowomen will meet for the third time this season. The two sides split the season series, with each earning a victory on their opponents' home court.
Both games during the regular season were played close, with Oberlin grabbing a 56-52 decision at Hiram on Nov. 19, and the Terriers responding with a 64-61 victory in Oberlin on January 4.
In the season series with Oberlin, both teams were able to play to their strengths during the split. The Terriers forced the Yeowomen into 15.5 turnovers per game while coming away with 8.5 steals and holding a +7.0 turnover margin. Oberlin, the Nation's leader in blocked shots, countered by outrebounding the Terriers by an average of 6.0, while notching 8.5 blocks per contest.
Hiram will make its 11th appearance in the NCAC tournament and is seeking its first opening-round victory in school history. Oberlin, meanwhile is making its 29th appearance in the NCAC tourney, holding a 3-25 mark in previous trips to the championship tournament.
The winner of the game will take on the winner of the #1/#8 matchup between DePauw and Wooster in the tournament semifinals. The final two rounds will be hosted by the top remaining seed on Friday and Saturday.