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Trenton Richardson shoots a free throw in a game earlier this season. (S. Nathaniel Grime | Col­legian)

The Hillsdale College Chargers couldn’t overcome a first-half deficit to beat the Walsh College Cav­a­liers on Thursday, but they came back strong on Sat­urday to stomp on the Malone Uni­versity Pio­neers. 

Splitting these two con­ference games puts the Chargers at a 12 – 7 overall record, 8 – 2 in the G‑MAC. Walsh now takes over the number one spot in the con­ference rankings, dropping the Chargers down to number two, and Findlay sits in number three. 

Thursday’s 67 – 62 loss to Walsh is Hillsdale’s fourth loss to the team since switching to the G‑MAC in 2017. The Chargers, however, will have a chance to redeem them­selves against the Cav­a­liers on their home court in a couple weeks. 

“Walsh is a really good bas­ketball team,” head coach John Tharp said. “We were down by five and we gave up two threes right before the half. I think we were all really dis­ap­pointed with how we played in that first half. We didn’t compete and com­mu­nicate the way we have been to win games.”

Neither team led by more than four throughout the beginning of the first half. The Chargers trailed by one, 19 – 18, with eight minutes left when a pair of free throws set the Cav­a­liers on a 10 – 3 scoring run. By the end of the first half, Walsh led 41 – 30, giving the team just enough of an edge to beat the Chargers in the end, despite being outscored 32 – 26 in the second half. 

Senior guard Dylan Lowry played nearly the entire game against Walsh, on the court for 38 of the game’s 40 minutes. He scored eight points and dished out three assists. 

“Dylan has played a lot of bas­ketball for us and he’s a guy we’ve asked a lot from,” Tharp said. “He runs the point for us and has to shoot and guard other shooters. He’s done a better job on both ends of the floor and we hope he has a great end to his senior year.”

Junior guard Connor Hill played his best game of the season so far with a career-high 15 points, two steals, and one assist. Fellow juniors Davis Larson and Austen Yarian each added 13 and 12 points, respec­tively. Yarian also led the team in rebounding with eight for a nice, well-rounded per­for­mance. 

The Chargers’ game against Malone had a similar start with several lead changes and a narrow gap in points, but this time it was Hillsdale who enjoyed a large scoring run with 12 minutes to go and headed into the locker room with a 41 – 26 lead at the half. 

Yarian played another great game that led to a career-high in scoring with 23 points, 15 of which came from beyond the three point line.

“When Austen plays the way he played on Sat­urday, we’re really good. He scored from the three-point line and he scored in the post, passed the ball, and rebounded,” Tharp said. “He’s really a key to the end of the season. He and Tavon Brown keep on getting better and they’re so important to our team.”

Three other Chargers scored in double digits as well: freshman forward Pat Cartier (18), Lowry (18), and Hill (11). Cartier also had five rebounds and three steals. 

“With our offense being motion and the position, I play I set a lot of screens for other guys on our team. I wouldn’t say the coaches nec­es­sarily set up the offense or call three point plays for me inten­tionally but I think it’s more of having so many other threats on our team that can score the ball,” Yarian said. “When I set a good screen for guys like Dylan or Davis and force my defender to help off of me, that nor­mally leaves me with enough space to shoot com­fortably and con­fi­dently.”

The Pio­neers attempted a comeback, starting the second half off with a 9 – 2 scoring run and nar­rowing Hillsdale’s lead to nine. But the Chargers reacted with intensity on the offensive end to extend their lead up to 30 at one point, leading 70 – 40. The Pio­neers cer­tainly couldn’t come back after that, ending the game with a final score of 81 – 60.

“It’s a tes­tament to how well our team can respond to adversity,” Hill said. “We lost a tough one to Walsh and lost our position at the top of the standings, and we could’ve easily laid an egg against a good Malone team. But we came together and played a great game and we’re proud of how we responded.” 

Malone was the final G‑MAC opponent the Chargers had to play for the first time. Now they’ll take a break this Thursday, resuming games on Sat­urday as they start working their way through the second round of con­ference oppo­nents. 

“I think that we do have some pretty good momentum going into the back half of the regular season,” Yarian said. “I think that as a team we know how good we can be and how ver­satile we are and that we’re just as hard to guard as any other team in our con­ference. We have a lot of guys con­tributing to our success on the court right now and I think that’s nec­essary for us in order to keep this momentum we have.” 

They’ll face Malone again, but this time on their home court on Sat­urday. Saturday’s game is Hillsdale College Alumni Day as well as Autism Speaks Day. Tip-off is at 3 p.m.