Houghton, Mich. – Playing in their first NCAA tournament game in the program’s history didn’t stop the seventh-seeded Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers from putting a scare into the No. 16-ranked Quincy Hawks. Trailing by two heading into the second half, the Hawks ran the court effectively and outscored the Panthers by 15 over the final 20 minutes to come away with an 85-72 victory.

“I thought Kentucky Wesleyan did a good job of testing us,” Hawks head coach J.D. Gravina said. “[This game] had a similar feel to our conference tournament game. Even though it had that mentality on the court, I thought we really did a good job of staying calm and trying to make adjustments.”

Forward Kailyn Mitchell helped the Panthers (17-10 overall) take an early four-point advantage, 8-4, when she made a 3-pointer just under 3 minutes into the game. The Hawks (26-3 overall) cut the lead down one, 15-14, over the next 4 minutes, but they just couldn’t keep up with the Panthers, who looked poised beyond their limited experience.

“We tried to really pressure [Quincy] in the first half,” Panthers co-head coach Caleb Nieman said. “They did a good job of keeping their act together.”

The Panthers pushed their lead to eight, 28-20, over the next 5 minutes thanks in part to a great effort from forward Amanda Harnist. Harnist scored six of her team-high 22 for the game over that stretch. The Hawks scored five consecutive points of their own to cut the lead to five as their press forced the Panthers to turn the ball over.

“I think we all held our composure really well,” said Harnist. “We all really wanted it.”

After getting some fresh players on the floor, the Panthers pushed their lead back up to five, 34-29, but they couldn’t hold it. The Hawks cut the lead to two, and had a chance to tie things up before the half, but missed the final shot, and trailed 36-34 at the break.

The Hawks carried the momentum they’d established into the second half, and that allowed forward Courtney Shuman, who scored a game-high 29 points, the opportunity to hit a big jumper, which was followed just over a minute later by guard Stephanie Wagner’s 3-pointer, which gave the Hawks their second lead of the game, 39-38.

“It was kind of scary because it kind of took us back to Indiana,” said Shuman when asked about trailing in the first half. “We really came out and knew we had to step it up because we didn’t want to be done yet.”

In just over 2 minutes, the Hawks expanded their lead to seven, 45-38, and never looked back. Forward Ali Schwagmeyer scored three layups and a free throw in a 2-minute span to help the Hawks extend their lead to 11. The Panthers responded with a jumper, but that was the closest they would get over the next 4 minutes as the Hawks continued to pressure their opponents.