DEFIANCE, Ohio – The Defiance College Yellow Jackets secured the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the HCAC Tournament next week with a 73-46 win over Manchester Wednesday night.
The Yellow Jackets (19-5, 14-3 HCAC) cruised to victory in a game that they never trailed and were tied with Manchester (5-19, 4-13 HCAC) for just 18 seconds. Bernard Edwards scored the first bucket of the game, in what would be a dominating performance by the Purple and Gold.
Defiance controlled just about every aspect in the game in the first 20 minutes, shooting 50 percent from the floor, while contesting every shot Manchester took. The Yellow Jackets defense recorded more blocks in the first half (5) than field goals that the Spartans made (3). Defiance held Manchester to just 3-of-27 (.111) shooting in the first half.
Edwards, Mason Roth and Ryan Hicks helped Defiance race away to a 33-11 lead in the first 20 minutes, combining for 27 of DC's 38 points. Edwards led the way with 11, while the other two each had eight points.
Edwards also had two of the team's five blocks in the half. Wade Wooley also had two and Kent Tietje also had one. Edwards added a third in the second half to match his season and team high.
Defiance's only area in which it struggled in the first half was foul trouble, sending Manchester to the line for 10 free throws. The Spartans made seven of them, attributing for more than half of their points before the break.
The second half began the same way that the first half ended for Defiance and four Yellow Jackets reached double figures on the night. Edwards added five more in the second half to finish with a team high 16.
Roth finished with 13 and Hicks had 12. Hicks also finished with eight rebounds, one behind Wooley, who had a team high on the night with nine.
Hicks is now just 10 rebounds shy of 500 for his career with at least two games to play. The senior, who played in his 100th game for the Purple and Gold tonight, is averaging 4.9 rebounds per game in his career and 5.8 this season.
Noah Reed led the way off the bench for the Purple and Gold, scoring 14 points for a new career high. Reed connected on four from behind the arc, also a career high for the freshman.
The Yellow Jackets were able to rest the starters with a comfortable lead that increased to as much as 35 in the second half, giving the bench some quality minutes. They took full advantage of the playing time, helping to pace the Yellow Jackets to its third largest victory of the season.
Shaquille Smith stepped off the bench to score four for DC, while Sam Toporski knocked down the first three of his career. Toporski also got after the ball, grabbing a career high four rebounds in seven minutes of action.
Javone Hilliard scored the first points of his career with a basket late in the game. Jordan Fair also added three rebounds, a steal and an assist to go along with a score. 11 Yellow Jackets cored in the game and 13 also pulled down rebounds.
Defiance finished the game out-rebounding Manchester 53-39. DC finished 7-of-11 from the line, while Manchester generated a large portion of its scoring from the charity stripe, shooting 20-of-30 on free-throw attempts.
With the win, the Yellow Jackets locked up the No. 2 seed in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament. Defiance will also receive a bye to the semi-finals, which will be held in Terre Haute, Ind. at Rose-Hulman. The Fighting Engineers clinched the No.1 seed as well Wednesday night.
DC could still earn a share of the HCAC Regular Season Championship with a win Saturday and a Rose-Hulman loss.
The Yellow Jackets will take on Franklin in the regular-season finale on Saturday. Senior day festivities for Ryan Hicks are set to begin at approximately 4 p.m. inside the Weaner Center with the tip-off to follow.