February 2, 2013 - The similarities between Saturday's home basketball game against Findlay and last Saturday's home basketball game against Walsh were eerie. But the result of the more recent showdown was cause for celebration instead of agony for the Chargers.
For just the second time since January 2002, the Hillsdale College men's basketball team defeated the University of Findlay in a tense, well-played contest, 56-51 Saturday afternoon at Jesse Philips Arena. It was a win that was crucial on every level for Hillsdale, who is now 9-6 in the GLIAC and 13-6 overall.
It's crucial in the standings, since it brings the Chargers within one game of the South Division lead. It's crucial for the psyche of the team, which was shaken after losing a 10-point lead in the last three minutes of a stunning loss to Walsh one week earlier. It's crucial for the team's overall happiness and historical progress, beating a program that has set the standard for excellence in the conference for more than a decade.
This was the first meeting between these programs since the 2012 GLIAC Tournament championship game, won in a rout by the Oilers. In that game, Findlay built a 20-point lead early in the first half and never looked back. But in this one, it was the Chargers playing with supreme effort and intelligence, who built a lead to 20 then held on for the win.
Setting the tone, as they often do, were Charger big men Nick Washburn and Tim Dezelski. Both had double figures scoring in the first half as Hillsdale jumped out to a 32-20 lead at halftime. They both hit their first jump shots from the outside, immediately setting a positive tone in this game from the start.
The Chargers' lead reached as hig has 20, 42-22, with 13 minutes to go in the game. But anyone who has watched the Oilers over the years knew this team had a run in them, and that run came shortly after the margin reached 20.
Findlay went on a 16-2 run over the next seven minutes to turn the raucous home crowd nervous. Junior Anthony Manno then made the first of two huge plays in the game by nailing a 3-pointer from the right wing to restore Hillsdale's lead to double digits with six minutes to play.
The Oilers bounced back again, trimming the lead back down to four, 49-45. Findlay then got a stop and threw the ball deep downcourt hoping to cut the lead in half. But Manno showed great hustle in getting back on defense, getting a steal and forcing an Oilers foul on the play. it was one of those "hidden"plays late in the game that came on the defensive end that was critical to Hillsdale maintaining a comfortable lead.
On the Chargers' subsequent possession, junior guard Brandon Pritzl hit a rainbow 3-pointer off a perfectly executed baseline out-of-bounds play to restore Hillsdale's lead to seven with 2:14 to go.
Findlay did pull to within one point late, but that came on an offensive rebound putback off a missed 3-pointer with six seconds to play. The Oilers were hoping to tie the game on the possession, but still trailed after the basket and were forced to foul. Dezelski and junior Tony Nelson then sunk four free throws in the game's waning seconds to sew up the win for Hillsdale.
The Chargers held the Oilerst to 35 percent shooting from the field and 28 percent from 3-point territory. The two teams combined for just 24 turnovers and 24 fouls, illustrating the high quality of basketball that was being played by the last two GLIAC South Division champions.
Dezelski led the team with 16 points, along with three steals. Pritzl had 11, while Washburn added 12 points, three assists and two blocked shots in an effective performance.
Hillsdale next plays Thursday night at home against Tiffin University.