The Hillsdale College women’s basketball team challenged some of the best Division II teams in the nation over break, and they met the challenge 5 – 4.
Head coach Todd Mitmesser said the whole roster has shown improvement over the last month.
“I’ve been really happy with the progress that the team is making. The players have grown quite a bit in their individual games,” Mitmesser said. “They’ve also had a lot of adversity because at one point everybody’s been injured on the team, one way or another. The girls had to face some adversity and come through that, and we’re a better team because of it.”
One of the biggest games for the squad was against rival Grand Valley State, ranked No. 16 in the country. The Chargers outrebounded the Lakers 53 – 35, but the game was close until the final minute. Junior center Allie Dittmer grabbed a rebound and made a layup with just 47 seconds left in the game to give the Chargers a 48 – 47 lead which led to a 54 – 47 win. Dittmer led the team both in rebounding and points with 14 of each.
“Grand Valley is always kind of a big game and we were happy to win that one,” junior guard Maddy Reed said.
Following the excitement of the GVSU game, the Chargers pulled off a 75 – 63 win two days later against Ferris State. Hillsdale entered the fourth quarter with just a six point lead. With four minutes to go, the Chargers were up by only two. From there, the Chargers pounded a 17 – 5 run to secure the victory.
With 15 steals, the Chargers set a season high. Senior guard Morgan Blair played aggressively against her younger sister Riley Blair, ending with 10 points and five rebounds.
The team also faced adversity off the court. Each Charger had to take her finals in just two days before heading to the Upper Peninsula for a pair of games before Christmas.
In the first game against Michigan Tech, the Chargers had a strong first half, led by sophomore guard Allie Dewire who made all six from the field and totaled 16 points in the half. The team lost its lead while struggling through the second half and could never quite get it back. Still, Dewire set a career high for herself and a season high for an individual on the team, with 27 points.
Following the rough second half against Michigan Tech, Hillsdale had a challenging first half against Northern Michigan that weekend, trailing the Wildcats 35 – 9 at the half. Though they outscored them in the the third and fourth quarters, the Chargers couldn’t overcome the deficit.
“That was kind of a tough way to end before we went back for break,” Reed said. Next year, when it switches conferences, the team won’t have to travel to the U.P. again.
After a seven-day break, the team returned for two days of practice, followed by another away game at Indianapolis. The Charger starters, Ott, Dittmer, Blair, Dewire, and Reed, played all but 17 of the 200 minutes and scored all but four of the points. The Chargers led by one with four seconds to go, and Reed hit two free throws to end the game with a 68 – 65 Chargers win.
“We came back and had two days of practice before they played at Indy, and we played probably one of our best games. That was really great, especially because we were coming off the two losses and coming off break,” Mitmesser said.
On Thursday, January 5, the Chargers struggled defensively against Northwood with 30 rebounds to Northwood’s 50. The Timberwolves outscored the Chargers by 13 points in the third quarter, leading to a 71 – 61 loss for the Chargers. Dewire led the team with 15 points and Blair scored 12 for the second game in a row, matching her season high.
Two days later, Blair beat her own record with 13 points and five assists against Lake Superior on her 22nd birthday. The Chargers were much stronger defensively, beating Lake Superior in rebounds and committing just 10 turnovers to Lake Superior’s 21. Blair, Dewire, Ott, and Dittmer all scored in the double digits.
Last Thursday, Hillsdale beat Findlay for the first time since 2014. The Chargers outrebounded the Oilers by 9 and had 15 assists to Findlay’s four. The teams were tied going into the fourth quarter, but the Chargers outscored Findlay 23 – 9 in the final quarter leading to a 73 – 56 win.
Last Saturday presented one of Hillsdale’s toughest games of the season when the Chargers faced Ashland, the No. 1 ranked Division II team in the nation. Ashland has been scoring over a hundred points and beating many teams by 50, but the Chargers fought hard.
“We started the game really strong and I think we messed with them. We played completely different than we normally do, changed our defense, and did a lot of things that they hadn’t seen in the film. We came out with a lot of energy and played really well and I think as they started to see what we were doing the adjusted and started scoring,” Blair said, “I’m excited to play them again. I think it will be a close game again when they come here in two weeks.”
Ashland scored nine fewer points than its average, and Hillsdale pulled away with four more than Ashland usually allows.
“We just played the No. 1 team in the country and we got beat by 19, but they are such a powerful team. We were beating them at the end of the first quarter, and we played it tough,” Mitmesser said. “It was nice to compete against the best team in the country, and we’ve got them at home next time so hopefully we can give them a better game.”
This weekend, Hillsdale will face Walsh and Tiffin at home.
“It’ll be a battle,” Mitmesser said. “Walsh is very athletic and play in an unorthodox style, and same with Tiffin. It’ll be a challenge this weekend. Every game’s tough in the GLIAC.”