With 44 seconds left, Hillsdale called a quick timeout. Once action resumed, Lowry came on the court and in about 20 seconds got the ball to Yarian, who made a layup to win the game.
The Hillsdale College Chargers edged out the Ohio Dominican University Panthers in a 67 – 65 victory on Saturday afternoon. While the Panthers may have outperformed Hillsdale in nearly every statistical category, the Chargers won where it mattered most: points scored.
Senior center Nick Czarnowski and senior guard Nate Neveau are back on the court and healthy, joined by sophomore forward Austen Yarian after the three missed several games at the beginning of the season. The trio combined for 28 points on Saturday.
“For the first time last week we had our full team. It’s great,” head coach John Tharp said. “There isn’t this drastic drop-off. We think we have eight or nine that could be so-called starters.”
The Panthers controlled the first half and held their biggest lead of the game with five and a half minutes left. The Chargers, however, didn’t back down from the 10-point deficit. By halftime, they cut Ohio Dominican’s lead to five.
“Tharp had to make some adjustments in the locker room. As a whole unit, we weren’t playing to our potential so we needed something to fire us up and get us on the same page,” senior guard Harrison Niego said. “We needed to come back with more intensity.”
Niego did just that. He set the tone of the second half with a three pointer that brought the Chargers within two, making the score 40 – 38. From there, the Chargers played a consistent game of catch-up with the Panthers.
With 10 minutes to go, junior guard Dylan Lowry sank three free throws in a row to make the score 51 – 49 in favor of the Panthers.
Then senior forward Gordon Behr had back-to-back stops on the defensive side of the floor. On the first, he drew a blocking foul and earned a trip to the free throw line, bringing the Chargers within just one point. On the next possession, Behr stole the ball and got it in the hands of Niego, who drained another three to give the Chargers their first lead of the game.
The Panthers contested Hillsdale’s lead with a layup to tie the game at 65, but Yarian’s last-minute layup gave the Chargers the win in the end.
“So many guys contributed in so many ways,” Niego said. “A lot of guys contributed not only putting the ball in the basket, but also some different aspects of the game.”
Niego led in scoring with 19 points, while earning three steals and two assists. Behr led the way in blocks with five, along with five rebounds. Sophomore forward Davis Larson added four rebounds, three steals and two assists.
The Chargers’ discipline was key in the victory. They capitalized well on Ohio Dominican’s 17 turnovers by scoring 14 points as a direct result, while only turning the ball over six times themselves. Hillsdale also had a much deeper bench, with reserve players combining for 25 points to the Panthers’ four.
“Throughout the season, coaches have told us we have to take care of the ball,” Larson said. “We aren’t putting up 70 or 80 points a game, so we have to value each possession.”
Many of the teams in the G-MAC are what Niego called “run and gun teams” that focus their energy on fast break scoring opportunities. Hillsdale, however, plays a slower-paced game that allows the team to set up and run an offense, wearing down the shot clock and the defense. This not only leads to greater discipline with the ball, but also fewer shot opportunities. As a result, the Chargers must focus on efficiency instead of speed.
“We’re more of five guys on the floor working and moving as one which wears teams down if we run good stuff,” Tharp said. “And we’re not giving them anything easy on the offensive end.”
The Chargers went 6 – 2 over the break, improving to 11 – 5 overall, and 7 – 2 in the conference. They now sit in second place in the conference standings.
The Chargers will be traveling to play conference rivals, the University of Findlay Oilers, on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Oilers are in first place in the conference with an 8 – 1 G-MAC record. Their only loss is to Cedarville University, whom Hillsdale beat on Nov. 29. Tharp said he and his team will be focusing on the little things they can control to lead them to a victory.
“It’s a huge rivalry. For a while it wasn’t a rivalry because they dominated, but for the last six years they’ve been dog fights,” Tharp said. “We’ve never won there, and they have a great record there, but I get caught up with what we have to do to win. We’re fighting to be in the hunt of things.”