The Hillsdale College men’s basketball team has clinched its spot in the GLIAC Tournament.
Behind a remarkable 3‑point shooting performance led by junior guard Ryan Badowski, the Chargers calmed the Lake Erie Storm 92 – 71 on Thursday night at Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena.
With the result, the Chargers improve to 14 – 11 overall and 10 – 9 in the GLIAC, while the Storm fall to 4 – 23 and 3 – 16 in conference play. Despite going 3 – 8 over their first 11 conference games, the Chargers have won four in a row and seven of their past eight. With Walsh University’s loss to Ashland this evening, the Chargers have booked their spot in the postseason.
“I’m just really pleased and really proud,” Hillsdale head coach John Tharp said. “We weren’t very good at one time. We were pretty bad, and these guys just toughened it out. They’re just getting it, and they’re understanding their roles so well.”
All five starters scored in double figures for the Chargers against the Storm. Badowski scored 26 points on 8‑of-10 3‑point shooting. Junior guard Stedman Lowry scored 13 points. Sophomore point guard Nate Neveau recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists. Senior forward Rhett Smith scored 12 points and senior center Nick Archer added 11.
The Chargers were red hot from beyond the arc, converting 20 of their 32 3‑point attempts (63 percent).
“We knew that they have a tendency to stare when you drive and kick or if the ball goes inside,” Tharp said. “The gameplan was to try to play inside-out and to penetrate and find and they did that.”
Hillsdale held Lake Erie to 47 percent field goal shooting and 41 percent shooting from beyond the arc. With the postseason approaching, the Chargers will continue to focus on their defense.
“It’ll be the point of emphasis here down the stretch,” Tharp said. “We still aren’t quite there where I want to be defensively.”
Hillsdale scored on its first possession and never looked back. Lowry got off to a fast start, hitting his first 3 shots — including two 3‑pointers — to give the Chargers an early 8 – 3 lead. The Chargers kept up the pace in the opening minutes, taking a 15 – 5 lead with 14:43 left in the first half on a layup by sophomore forward Nick Czarnowski.
The Storm briefly pulled within 2 points at 17 – 15 thanks to a 10 – 2 run, but 3‑pointers by Neveau and Badowski restored a comfortable lead.
Badowski continued to hit shots in the first half whenever Lake Erie began making a run. Badowski scored 14 points in the opening period on 5‑of‑6 field goal shooting and 4‑of‑4 3‑point shooting. Neveau and Lowry each scored 10 in the first half as the Chargers took a 43 – 30 lead into the locker room.
The Chargers opened the second half on a 19 – 8 run to take a commanding 62 – 38 lead with 13 minutes remaining in the game and cruised to the 92 – 71 win.
Archer and Smith were honored before the final home game of their collegiate careers. They both received big ovations and hugs from their coaches and teammates when they were subbed out of the game with a minute remaining.
“It’s always an emotional night because you say goodbye to those seniors,” Tharp said. “You want to play well for those seniors.”
On Saturday, the Chargers will play their regular season finale at Ohio Dominican University. The Panthers have had the week off to prepare for the Chargers. Tip off is scheduled for 3 p.m.
“Hopefully we can keep that edge,” Tharp said. “That’s what I’m a little worried about, especially after finding out that we’re in.”
While most GLIAC teams wrap up their regular seasons next Thursday, the Chargers will be waiting for the playoffs to begin on Feb. 28
“You just want to keep winning. And one reason is that we have to sit all next week,” Tharp said. “But I’m happy that we’re in.”