Junior Makenna Ott leads the team with 14.5 points per game this season. (Photo: Gabe Prieur | Courtesy)

The last time the Hillsdale College Chargers scored 103 points, head coach Matt Fritsche men­tioned how important it was that all his players expe­ri­enced success on the court. One week later, his team treated the home crowd at Dawn Tib­betts Potter Arena to an encore.

For the second time in three games, the Chargers (16 – 9, 14 – 7 G-MAC) eclipsed the 100 point threshold, defeating the Ohio Valley Uni­versity Fighting Scots (0 – 20, 0 – 24) on Sat­urday, 103 – 37.

It was a special day for four Chargers in par­ticular: the team’s 2018 senior class.

Seniors Michelle Boykin and Maddie Reed started the game at the guard position, with senior Jess De Gree drawing the start at forward and senior Allie Dittmer starting as usual at center. Junior forward Makenna Ott, the team’s leading scorer this season, rounded out the starting lineup on Senior Day.

Hillsdale’s typical five starters are Dittmer, Reed, Ott, and juniors Brittany Gray at forward and Allie Dewire at guard. On Sat­urday, those five com­bined to score 21 points, while the rest of the team accounted for 82 points. An encore from the bench, indeed.

De Gree made 10 of 13 shots to lead the team with 25 points and added seven rebounds. She also nailed a pair of threes in the second half.

On hand to witness De Gree’s standout per­for­mance were her parents, who came all the way from San Clemente, Cal­i­fornia to watch De Gree for the first time in her col­le­giate career.

“This one was easy,” De Gree said. “This game was much slower. I was much more con­fident in myself once I got used to the game, and I started shooting more.”

Fritsche, who often men­tions the impact De Gree has during prac­tices as a leader and encourager, got the oppor­tunity to talk about the impact she brought to the court in the victory.

“She under­stands how to move without the ball and be effi­cient in those move­ments,” Fritsche said. “She’s a good fin­isher. It doesn’t sur­prise you when she makes all those shots around the basket.”

It was appro­priate that on Senior Day, it was a player like De Gree, who so often leads by example in cul­ti­vating a pos­itive atmos­phere among the team, was the team’s leader on the court on Sat­urday.

Another feel-good story was the fact that Boykin, who had been shut down for the season due to recurring con­cus­sions, suited up to start and finish the game on the floor. It was the first time she’d been on the court since Jan. 4.

“Her team­mates talked her into putting on a uniform and jacking up a couple of shots,” Fritsche said. “They wanted her to play one more time. She’s a special kid that’s a good friend and a good teammate, and they wanted to expe­rience one more game with her.”

Another player that seem­ingly came out of nowhere to make a sig­nif­icant impact was junior guard Hunter Stevens, who made three of four three-pointers and scored 14 points.

Stevens has dealt with con­cus­sions this season that have kept her off the practice and game court for extended periods of time, but she proved that when healthy, she has the ability to catch fire and change the course of a game.

“She’s obvi­ously a pretty good player,” Fritsche said. “It’s cool to see her expe­rience success, but it’s not a huge sur­prise. We think all of our kids can score it a little bit.”

Freshman guard Jaycie Burger flirted with a triple-double, scoring 10 points while col­lecting seven rebounds and eight assists. Burger has 18 assists in the team’s last three games.

“I’ve been able to learn my team­mates’ ten­dencies throughout the season,” Burger said. “That has helped me place effective passes that allow them to play to their strengths, which makes scoring a little easier.”

Burger is typ­i­cally Hillsdale’s first player off the bench to com­pliment the Chargers’ usual five starters. On Sat­urday, she spent much of the game coor­di­nating an offense that con­sisted almost exclu­sively of players who nor­mally take on sec­ondary roles to the core five. That detail wasn’t lost on Fritsche, who pointed to Burger’s per­for­mance as a sign of her mat­u­ration and lead­ership.

“Today, I think she took on a lead­ership role; a really good com­mu­nicative role,” Fritsche said. “She really wanted to lead that team and get people good looks. She did a great job of it too.”

Burger agreed that her com­mu­ni­cation allowed her to step into new shoes as a leader on the court.

“I made it a per­sonal goal to increase my volume and talking during the game,” Burger said. “It helped my play to improve and my team­mates also responded well. I’m trying to take a lead­ership role and talking is a very important aspect of that.”

Burger was central to Hillsdale’s ability to include of its players, espe­cially those role players who have con­tributed to the team’s recent success in so many ways.

One of many role players who enjoyed a stellar game was sophomore center Julia Wacker, who recorded her first double-double of the season, scoring 10 points while grabbing 11 rebounds.

Fritsche had high praise for Wacker’s growth this season, com­paring her potential to Dittmer’s. Earlier this month, Dittmer became only the 14th player in program history to score 1,000 career points. Wacker figures to be the team’s starting center, or “five”, next season once Dittmer grad­uates.

“We’ve gone through the second half of this season thinking that Julia was going to move into that role for next year, to be a go-to five,” Fritsche said. “She’s developed a lot; her ceiling is unknown to all of us. If she has a really good summer, she could have Dittmer-like years in her future.”

Sophomore guard Sydney Anderson also came off the bench with a hot hand, making three three-pointers en route to 13 points, her second time scoring in double-digits in her last three games.

As a team, Hillsdale shot 55 percent from the floor. The Chargers nearly broke a record they set just a week earlier in making 15 of 37 three pointers. The school record for threes in a game is 16, set on Feb. 10.

The Chargers dom­i­nated on the boards, out-rebounding Ohio Valley, 60 – 16. Hillsdale remains second in the nation in rebounding margin, out-rebounding oppo­nents by an average of 11.3 boards per game.

The Fighting Scots, who played with only five players due to injuries and sus­pen­sions, struggled to get any­thing going offen­sively all game long.

Hillsdale’s final game of the regular season comes at the same location where the G-MAC tour­nament will be held, in Findlay, Ohio. The Chargers travel to take on the Uni­versity of Findlay Oilers (19 – 6, 16 – 5) on Sat­urday. Tip off is at 3 p.m. Hillsdale defeated Findlay on Jan. 13, 75 – 67.

Though Sat­urday will be the final regular season game for De Gree and the seniors, they have their eyes set on more.

“I know we can win the tour­nament and I want to go on,” De Gree said. “That would be super cool to end my senior year with huge post­season success.”