The Hillsdale College men’s basketball team took care of business last weekend and received some important help from around the GLIAC earlier this week. With losses by Walsh and Ohio Dominican University on Monday, Hillsdale moved into a three-way tie for the final GLIAC Tournament spot with six games remaining.
Winners of three in a row and six of their past nine, the Chargers are feeling good entering the stretch run of the season.
“This time of year, to get on a run and get some rhythm is huge,” junior guard Stedman Lowry said. “We definitely have the ability to make a run if we can just get into the tournament and our confidence is really high right now.”
On Jan. 26 against the last-place Lake Erie Storm, the Chargers struggled for 30 minutes but erased a 12-point deficit over the final nine minutes to steal a 61 – 60 win. Hillsdale held Lake Erie to just 4 points over the final nine minutes and took its only lead of the game with 18 seconds remaining.
“I don’t think we could’ve played any worse, so the fact that we won is huge,” said Lowry, who led the Chargers with 13 points against the Storm. “We really just started locking them up defensively. We were helping each other out on defense, and ultimately that’s what got us the win.”
Any win in the GLIAC is a quality win, especially on the road. Lowry said picking up a win in their first game of the week gave the Chargers plenty of confidence heading into Saturday’s matchup with the Ohio Dominican Panthers.
Chasing the Panthers in the GLIAC standings at the time, Hillsdale showed off one of its best team performances of the season. Five players scored in double figures as the Chargers knocked off Ohio Dominican 80 – 71.
“Five guys in double digits — that’s when we’re going to be at our best,” head coach John Tharp said. “That was a game that three or four weeks ago we would’ve lost.”
Junior guard Ryan Badowski led the Chargers with 22 points and 10 rebounds on 6-of-11 shooting. Sophomore point guard Nate Neveau scored 13 points and grabbed 8 rebounds and senior forward Rhett Smith scored 12 points. Sophomore forward Nick Czarnowski and redshirt freshman point guard Dylan Lowry came off the bench and scored 14 and 12 points, respectively.
“Badowski was fantastic. You see what he can do off the dribble for us and how much that means to us,” Tharp said. “Dylan Lowry off the bench played incredibly well and again Nick Czarnowski played incredibly well.”
The Panthers finished with a higher field goal shooting percentage than the Chargers, but took 10 fewer shots. Hillsdale dominated Ohio Dominican on the offensive glass, grabbing 13 and scoring 19 second chance points. The Panthers finished with just 6 offensive rebounds and 10 second chance points.
“That was huge. That was one of our emphases here that we felt like we had to do,” Tharp said. “Getting those extra possessions was a key to us winning that game.”
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the win was that the Chargers managed it while getting just 4 points from their leading scorer, Stedman Lowry.
“When we have a bunch of guys playing like that, it definitely takes a lot of pressure off of me,” Lowry said. “Some games I just have to be a decoy, and if they’re going to guard me that close then other guys will step up.”
The Chargers are now 10 – 10 overall and 6 – 8 in the GLIAC. Since losing their first five conference games, Hillsdale has a 6 – 3 conference mark.
“This group has kept on battling,” Tharp said. “We’re a little inconsistent defensively, we still don’t run great motion yet, but we have different guys that are making plays for us.”
The Chargers face a tough task tonight as they try to extend their win streak to four games. Hillsdale will face the GLIAC South Division leaders, the Findlay Oilers, at 7:30 p.m. in Findlay, Ohio.
“Findlay is without a doubt the hardest place to play. They have great home court advantage,” Lowry said. “They’re going to make a run because they’re at home and we just have to weather the storm and keep playing how we are and I think we can get a big road win.”
The Chargers beat Findlay at home 80 – 65 on Jan. 12 thanks to one of their best defensive performances of the season. They’ll need to repeat that type of performance tonight.
“For us it starts defensively,” Tharp said. “Findlay is incredibly talented. They don’t lose very much on their home floor. So we’re going to have to be incredibly physical for us to go get them. They’re a little bit more of a finesse team that can really score the basketball, so we’re going to have to be incredibly physical to try to balance them.”
The Chargers will return home on Saturday to take on the Ashland Eagles at 3 p.m.