(Photo: MaryKate Drews | Courtesy)

The Hillsdale College men’s bas­ketball team headed into the locker room with a spring in its step and a 9‑point lead, after its senior cap­tains put on an offensive show in the first half against the Uni­versity of Findlay on Sat­urday.

Head coach John Tharp said during the halftime the team was excited about their first-half per­for­mance and that the only adjustment made by the coaching staff was to insist a com­mitment to rebounding.

But over the first five minutes of the second half, the Charger lead evap­o­rated as the Oilers refused to miss resulting in an 88 – 61 Findlay victory in the last game of the regular season.

Stedman Lowry was locked in, scoring 19 points on 8 – 10 shooting in the first half with 3 triples and some crafty mid-range jumpers. Ryan Bad­owski was just as effi­cient gar­nering 13 points on 5 – 7 shooting with 3 three-pointers.

“They made plays that showed their great ability,” Tharp said. “You need your seniors, your most expe­ri­enced guys, to play well at this time of the season.”

The Charger’s first half —  arguably their best half of the entire season — boasted 63 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc which sparked a defensive effort that limited the Oilers to 35 percent from the floor for the half.

But after the break, it looked as if someone had poured cold water over the entire Charger team, and lit a fire under­neath the Oilers.

In the second half, Findlay senior guard Elijah Kahlig scored 12 of his 20 points going a perfect 4 – 4 from beyond the arc. He also pulled down 8 rebound in the contest.

“Findlay can get them­selves going. Everybody started banging shots on us,” Tharp said.

The Oilers’ two All-Amer­icans per­formed well in their last regular season home game. Senior forward Taren Sul­livan had 12 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks while senior guard Martyce Kim­brough, despite tough defense by Hillsdale guard Nate Neveau, scored 14 points.

The Chargers scored a season-low 21 points in the second half while making a single triple in 12 attempts.

Lax defense and shoddy rebounding efforts allowed Findlay to score 17 second-chance points off of 12 offensive rebounds. Findlay out­re­bounded the Chargers 44 – 27, which Tharp said is a concern for the team moving forward.

“We aren’t rebounding col­lec­tively,” Tharp said. “Our guards need to do a better job of rebounding the bas­ketball. It needs to be a group effort.”

Freshman forward Austen Yarian, forced into action due to a leg injury to junior forward Nick Czarnowski, con­tinued to serve as an offensive threat off of the bench as he scored 10 points in 21 minutes of action while adding 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.

Hillsdale fin­ishes regular season third in the G‑MAC behind Walsh Uni­versity and Findlay Uni­versity, who is ranked 11th nationally.

Tharp said the Chargers might be in a decent position for a bid to the DII national men’s bas­ketball tour­nament. For each region, the top four teams have locks for the tour­nament. In the Midwest region, the Chargers sit in 5th position.

But before the Chargers turn their attention to the national tour­nament, they will play next in the G‑MAC bas­ketball tour­nament at 2:30 p.m. on March 1 against Alderson Broaddus Uni­versity. Tharp described the Bat­tlers as “really tal­ented, uber tal­ented.” If the Chargers win, they will con­tinue to play through March 3.

“This is the best time of year, and we need to focus and execute on the smallest of details,” Tharp said. “We need to bring tremendous energy and passion.”