In its final home game of the season, the Hillsdale College men’s basketball team suffered a devastating loss to the Malone Pioneers last Thursday, 61 – 59.
It was a roller coaster of a contest as neither team led by more than six points. An Anthony Manno three-pointer and a crucial defensive stop with less than a minute to play seemed to put the Chargers in a relatively comfortable 59 – 56 position. But Malone made a layup with 34 seconds to go, then forced a Hillsdale turnover and converted on another breakaway layup, stealing a win away from the Chargers in heartbreaking fashion.
“Thursday was a tough one,” assistant coach Brian McCauley said. “To lose a close game that way was not easy.”
Junior forward Tim Dezelski was Hillsdale’s scoring leader, chalking up 13 points as well as eight rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. Junior guard Brandon Pritzl put up 11 while senior center Nick Washburn had 10 points and four blocked shots.
“Obviously we would have loved to finish off our season at home with a win but weren’t able to,” Pritzl said. “It was frustrating to leave our home floor with a loss but we knew we had another big game on Saturday against a good Walsh team.”
The Chargers were fortunately able to rebuild in time for Saturday’s game where they beat the Walsh Cavaliers 76 – 68. It was a hard-fought grudge match as Walsh beat Hillsdale last month in a 75 – 73 squeaker. This time, the Chargers came ready to play.
Junior guard Anthony Manno had a clutch second-half performance, scoring 11 points and knocking down two back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game 66 – 66 in the final minutes. Junior guard Cody Smith, who scored a career-high 14 points, took it from there, converting on a crucial and-one play that forced Walsh to foul in order to get back in the game. Thanks to stellar behind-the-arc defense and an 88 percent free-throw percentage, Hillsdale was able to do what it took secure the victory.
“I thought our guys rebounded for Saturday’s game and were very tough and hard-nosed,” McCauley said. “We made some huge plays down the stretch.”
Washburn played big for Hillsdale with 17 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. Dezelski added 12 points and Pritzl had 11.
On Saturday, Hillsdale will take on the Findlay Oilers in its final game of the season. Though the Chargers have a guaranteed spot in the GLIAC Tournament with a 17 – 8 overall record, a win against Findlay would give them some leverage in terms of seed placement.
“We will have to be a tough team physically and mentally because Findlay is a hard atmosphere to play in,” Pritzl said “Hopefully we are able to finish off the regular season the right way and have some momentum going into tournament play.”