A loss has helped turn the Transylvania women's basketball team into a winner.
Oglethorpe, a ranked team playing at home on Dec. 21, defeated the Pioneers 85-73.
"We lost, but we were able to play with them," Transy senior Kelsey McCarty said. "It showed us we have what it takes."
Transylvania (14-3) hasn't lost since. The Pioneers will take a six-game winning streak — and the Heartland Conference lead — into Saturday's 1 p.m. tip-off against Manchester at the Beck Center. Manchester is the only team in the league to defeat Transylvania, 79-65 on Dec. 6.
The Pioneers are 8-1 in the league, 1½ games ahead of Franklin and Anderson who play each other on Saturday. Manchester is 5-3.
Transylvania Coach Greg Todd and his players agree that balance has been the key to success so far.
Four starters average in double figures, and Holly Milburn is at 9.1. Jackie Distler (15.8) and McCarty (12.5) are in the top 10 of Heartland scorers. Brittany Henderlight, back from a broken wrist, averages 11.8 points; Ashley Pait has a 10-point average.
"On any given night, anybody can step up," McCarty said. "Coach tells us there's not a single player he doesn't have confidence in. We push each other, and that gives us confidence. It's contagious."
"We have very competitive practices and a good team effort," Distler said. "We're a lot faster and like to push it. We can be gritty on defense."
Distler, with 25 points, and Henderlight, with 21, had their season highs in an 80-78 victory over last-place Mount St. Joseph Wednesday.
"We have a balance of talent," Henderlight said. "It's hard to scout us. Six or seven of us can step up any night as the leading scorer or rebounder. It doesn't put pressure on any particular player."
"Our players are typically mentally ready," said Todd, who is in his third season at Transylvania. "They don't mind playing big games.
"I like our balance. Jackie Distler is an excellent offensive player, but she has a lot of help. Our team speed is excellent. We have the ability to turn people over and get easy baskets. I like our chemistry. They don't want to let their teammates down, and they pull together. They can close out tough games."
The Mount St. Joseph game Wednesday proved unexpectedly tough.
The Lions led by 13 points in the first half before the Pioneers got within two at the break.
Transylvania took the lead for good on a Distler three-pointer with 16 minutes left. The Pioneers led 75-65 with 4½ minutes left, but Mount St. Joseph got within two points with two minutes left and within one at 51 seconds. Kat O'Neill grabbed a missed free throw by Transy with 6.1 seconds left but didn't shoot as time ran out.
"We definitely can learn from this," Distler said. "You never know when a team will have its best game against you."
Henderlight said, "Usually our defense is pretty good, but they scored 78, more than our average (on defense). We were lucky to pull out a win."
"Our defense wasn't great," Todd said, "but give Mount a lot of credit. They made 31 of 57 (54.4 percent). You've got to bring your 'A' game. You're not going to walk over teams."
Transylvania's mission now is to maintain its winning ways over the second half (minus one) of the Heartland season.
"We have nothing to celebrate yet," Todd said. "When you're on top everybody wants a shot at you. We have to be ready."