ANDERSON — Having lost six of its last seven contests, Anderson University's women's basketball squad was in serious need of a lifeline Wednesday night and one appeared on the horizon in last-place Manchester.
That slipped away, and with it may have gone AU's chances of a winning season and a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference playoff berth.
The Ravens had the Spartans in their grasp, but faulty defense in the fourth quarter and mediocre free-throw shooting all night befell AU, which dropped a 60-55 decision.
It was the fourth straight defeat for the Ravens (9-14, 5-10 HCAC), while Manchester improved to 4-17 and 2-12 in the conference.
AU battled from behind and had a 43-39 lead a minute into the fourth quarter, but the Spartans, who like the Ravens didn't shoot well from the floor, made their shots when they needed to, and AU didn't.
"To go 14-for-30 from the free-throw line (is bad), but if we make half of our free throws that we missed — half of them — we win the game," AU coach Lindsay Shade said.
On four instances, AU players missed both ends of two-shot opportunities. Ironically, a pair of converted three-point plays gave the Ravens the lead late in the third quarter, after they trailed much of the game.
Hannah Hawkins, a 6-foot-1 post player from Madison-Grant, made an and-1 to put AU in front 36-35, Lexi Dellinger followed with one and the Ravens were up four.
Manchester went ahead to stay (49-47) on a basket by Macy Miller with 4:50 remaining, and the Spartans scored two more baskets in a row, and that made the Ravens' task difficult.
"A loss on your home court hurts but especially one when you go into the fourth quarter with the lead," Shade said. "But we just didn't make the plays that we needed to make down the stretch, and we turned the ball over, gave up offensive rebounds, missed layups and missed free throws. It's going to be tough to beat anyone."
Hawkins was the game's leading scorer with 16 points, and she pulled down 11 rebounds. Dellinger had 10 points and Moore nine points and 17 rebounds.
AU shot 19-of-55 (34.5 percent) and 3-for-14 from 3-point range. Manchester was 24-of-69 (34.8 percent) and 3-of-17 from beyond the arc.
"For this team, this game had some implications for postseason, so I don't know if we're feeling pressure or (being) tight, but obviously that just isn't a formula for success," Shade said.
The first six teams make the HCAC playoffs, which are in two weeks. AU is in seventh pending results of other games Wednesday.
Shenandoah graduate Hillery Shepherd played 15 minutes for the Spartans. She did not score and had one rebound.
The AU men's team won at Manchester on Wednesday, 85-72, pulling away after being tied at 31 at halftime. It was the second win in a row for the Ravens.
Malik Laffoon led the Ravens (9-13, 8-7 HCAC) with 24 points. Cole Hartman had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Michael Rogers 19 points and Maurice Knight (Frankton) 10.
Both AU squads are at Bluffton on Saturday afternoon.