Hillsdale’s women basketball ended the farewell GLIAC tour on a positive note: a triumphant senior night for the Chargers and an overall winning record.
“I think the season went well. We won 40 percent more games than last season. We’re not satisfied with that, I think we still want more, to work towards those wins,” head coach Todd Mitmesser said. “We won two of our last three games and played really good basketball in a lot of games we ended up losing.”
With a number of players returning from injuries next season along with some new freshman, Mitmesser said he’s looking at a bright future.
The Chargers missed the GLIAC tournament by just one spot, coming in ninth place overall in the GLIAC for their final season there.
In Thursday night’s game against Lake Erie, the Chargers pulled ahead early on. The team lost its lead during a challenging second quarter, in which the Storm outscored Hillsdale by 11 points. But with 48 points in the paint and a field goal percentage above 55 percent, the Chargers scored 51 points in the second half to just 19 by the Storm, leading to a 88-68 victory.
“I was really happy with the way the team pulled out in the second half…we kept the pressure up even when we were ahead and didn’t let them come back into the game,” sophomore guard Allie Dewire said.
Senior guard Morgan Blair played 31 minutes and ended with 9 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds. Sophomore guard Makenna Ott led the team with a season-high of 20 points — including 4 made from behind the 3-point line — followed closely by junior center Allie Dittmer and junior guard Maddy Reed, each with 16 points.
A team effort led to 49 rebounds, almost double Lake Erie’s 27. Hillsdale’s bench also provided quite a bit of assistance, scoring 28 points.
“We didn’t play all that great in the first half, but we really picked it up in the second half. It was really kind of cool to see how everyone wanted to go out on a really strong note for our last home game, so we just went out together and really just dominated in the second half,” senior guard Morgan Blair said.
The game clinched a winning season for the Chargers and closed out the home season 8-4.
Two days later, the Chargers played their last game in the GLIAC, away against Ohio Dominican. The 86-94 final score did not reflect how close the game was until the last minute.
“We pretty much went out with a bang. ODU was a tough loss, but we fought really hard and we brought the game within 2 points,” Dewire said.
Five of Hillsdale’s players scored double digits, leading the team to its high scoring loss. The Chargers started out strong and led by as much as 9 in the first quarter, but a 15-2 run by the Panthers gave them a lead that they held onto through the rest of the game. The Panthers beat the Chargers 42-29 on the boards, but Hillsdale lost only 23 points off 17 turnovers, in contrast to 34 off 23 turnovers by Ohio Dominican.
Sophomore guard Allie Dewire led the team with 24 points, followed by junior guard Maddy Reed who hit a season high of 19 points including a career high of five 3-point shots. Dittmer, sophomore forward Brittany Gray, and Ott all scored 10 points.
“It was a really close game, a 2-point game with about a minute to go,” Mitmesser said. “We played very, very hard and just couldn’t quite hit enough shots. We just came up a little short to a very experienced Ohio Dominican team.”
Blair and senior guard Becca Scherting ended their college careers with a winning season, but missing out on the tournament.
“It’s very bittersweet,” Blair said. “I’ve been playing since I was 5. I played here for three years because I transferred, but I loved every second of it. I made some of the best friends that I could have ever asked for in my teammates and across the athletic department in general. I think here more than at other schools, the athletes understand the struggle. It’s such a privilege to be an athlete, but it’s also tough, so we all rally together and support each other and that was the biggest highlight for me of Hillsdale athletics.”
Both Blair and Dewire said they loved watching the team develop and the individuals improve throughout the season, and though Scherting and Blair will be graduated next season, Blair and Dewire said they think the Chargers will do well next year in the new conference, with an athletic freshman class.
“The good thing is we are, for the most part, a relatively younger team. It’s nice because we get to move forward with most of the talent we had this year and it’s only going to get better,” Dewire said, adding that it “stinks” to lose Blair and Scherting.
For Blair, Dewire, and Mitmesser, a highlight of the season was beating Grand Valley, at the time ranked No.16 in the country. Bigger picture, the highlight was coming together as a team, Blair said.
“From start to finish, we really grew a lot. It’s not easy getting a new coach and learning a new system and learning how to interact with each other in that system. Even at the beginning of this year people were unsure, and they wanted to see what their particular role was on the team, but by the end everyone was working cohesively and working together towards our main goals,” Blair said.
Mitmesser added that winning 14 games was another highlight of the season. With four players injured through almost the entire season, the team had less depth than expected, but Mitmesser said next year there will be much more competition for playing time. Next year, the team will be both young as well as more experienced.
Three players ended the season with more than 100 rebounds: Dittmer (whose 229 was second in the conference), Reed, and Dewire. Dewire, Dittmer, and Ott all had over 300 points. The team’s average 40 rebounds per game was third highest in the GLIAC. Mitmesser said he was most proud of the team’s determination to stick with teams through close games.
“We have shown many times that we were able to make runs and get ourselves in a position to win games,” Mitmesser said. “I think we played extremely hard and that was evident in the fact that we were able to come back and win several different times this season.”