The Hillsdale College Chargers began their season with four consecutive losses. They turned it around in the next month and a half, winning eight of their next 11. Then, they again dropped four straight. Since then, however, they’ve won a season-high five consecutive games.
Their current winning streak continued last week thanks to a pair of road wins. On Thursday, Hillsdale overcame a stagnant start to defeat the Ursuline College Arrows, 81 – 69. Two days later, the Chargers beat the Lake Erie Storm 64 – 43 in their best defensive effort of the season.
Head coach Matt Fritsche said he’s been pleased with his team’s movement toward more consistency as the year has progressed.
“I would use the word streaky early in the season,” Fritsche said. “Offense is always going to be a little streaky. There’s just going to be days. But defensively, our kids have matured a ton.”
Hillsdale has won its last five games by an average of 15.6 points, and has held its opponents below 70 points in four consecutive games.
On Thursday, the Chargers and Arrows played a close first half and entered halftime with the score tied at 33. But Hillsdale shot 54.2 percent from the floor in the final two quarters and led during the last 16 minutes of regulation.
Senior forward Brittany Gray led the Chargers with 22 points, and recorded a double-double by adding 10 rebounds. She also made a team-high four three-pointers.
“We saw the openings and saw more passes. Shots were falling because we had really good chemistry throughout,” Gray said. “The ball was moving, and we weren’t really stagnant even when we weren’t scoring.”
Senior forward Makenna Ott also notched a double-double for the second consecutive game by scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. She sunk three three-pointers, and said Ursuline’s defensive tendency was to crowd the lane, opening up opportunities for quality shots beyond the arc.
“Especially toward the second half we were scoring at an efficient rate, and also our offense was really good as it has been,” Ott said. “More outside shots from the three range. Our whole team, they kind of let us shoot more of those.”
Senior guard Allie Dewire led the team with seven assists and also added 16 points. Fritsche said he’s been impressed with the contributions from Gray, Ott, and Dewire in their senior seasons, especially down the stretch.
“We’re lucky right now. We’ve got three seniors that are really leading with effort and communication and scout preparation,” Fritsche said. “Those three have been dynamite toward the end of the year.”
On Saturday, both Hillsdale and Lake Erie shot under 35 percent from the floor, but the Storm made only 14 field goals, whereas the Chargers got enough offensive production to eventually win handily.
“We definitely took a lot of shots. We missed a lot of those, but we just did a good job on the offensive glass and getting putbacks,” Gray said. “Eventually, they started to fall. I just think we had a lot of great looks in that game, and that was the difference.”
Lake Erie led by one at halftime, but the Chargers held the Storm to just five points in the third quarter, and 11 in the fourth quarter.
“Our kids’ willingness to stay the course and believe in each other was huge,” Fritsche said. “In the second half, we really separated. That’s an indicator of maturation.”
The Storm shot just 26.9 from the floor all game. Gray said the team’s preparation on scout defense paid off in a big way.
“We made them take the shots we wanted them to take,” Gray said. “They didn’t get any easy looks from us, and that really makes a difference.”
Dewire recorded a double-double, leading Hillsdale with 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Chargers forced 19 turnovers, translating to 24 points, whereas Lake Erie scored only five points off of turnovers.
Despite scoring just 26 points in the first two quarters, Fritsche said he wasn’t displeased with his team’s offensive approach.
“We got every shot we wanted in the first half and we just didn’t make them,” Fritsche said. “But we didn’t get down about not scoring. Our kids stayed encouraged.”
Gray made three three-pointers and scored 11 points, and freshman guards Lauren Daffenberg and Grace Touchette scored 11 and 10 points off the bench, respectively. Ott scored nine points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.
The Chargers’ two wins on the road are just their third and fourth of the season away from home, putting their road record at 4 – 5.
Hillsdale’s next two games are its final road contests of the regular season. Tonight at 5:30 p.m., the Chargers take on Ohio Valley University, a team that has lost 58 consecutive games dating back to 2017. The Chargers beat Ohio Valley at home on Jan. 10, 78 – 61.
On Saturday, Hillsdale travels to Ohio Dominican University for a 1 p.m. tip-off. The Chargers lost to Ohio Dominican at home on Jan. 12, 76 – 65.
The Chargers remain in fifth place in the G-MAC standings, behind four teams that have already clinched positions in March’s G-MAC tournament. The top eight teams in the regular season standings earn spots in the tournament.