After the frenzy of a regular season finale, and the winning huddle broke up senior Anthony Manno took a moment, bent down on the brand-new wood floor in the Hillsdale College Arena, and kissed the center of the blue H.
It was a show of soft, genuine emotion after a night filled with intensity of the highest scale.
The Charger men's basketball team, playing in front of its raucous home crowd for the last time this season, made it count in an 86-67 win over the University of Findlay Thursday night. The Chargers now enter the postseason with an 18-8 overall record and 14-8 in the GLIAC.
The team's opponent will be officially announced Friday morning after tiebreakers can be determined.
The Findlay men's basketball team has been the standard-bearer in the GLIAC for many years. This version was no different, entering Thursday night's showdown as the conference's hottest team, featuring one of Division II's hottest players. The Chargers were able to slow both down on this night.
The Oilers came into the game on a GLIAC-best eight-game winning streak, and featured Greg Kahlig, who scored a mind-boggling 121 points over his previous three games.
Manno kissed the floor after the game, but during the game, it was the shots of senior guard Brandon Pritzl which were kissing the nets. Pritzl, who was tasked with guarding Kahlig for stretches in the second half, poured in a career-high 27 points, going 7-for-10 from the field, 5-for-7 from 3-point land, while making all eight of his free throws.
Not only was Pritzl ultra-efficient in his scoring, he made a play that was the first of two that pushed the game permanently in Hillsdale's favor.
Halfway through the second half, with the Chargers already on a 23-12 run, Pritzl shot the gap on a pass across the floor, stole the ball and threw down a vicious one-handed slam dunk that brought the crowd to its highest level of noise on the night.
Those two plays were key in Hillsdale running away with the contest in the second half. To the point of Cooper's dunk, the Chargers outscored the Oilers by 15 points in the first 10:25 of the second half. Findlay never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
Hillsdale went winless against Findlay from January 2002 through December 2011. However, the Chargers are slowly trying to even up this compelling rivalry, having won thrree straight home regular season showdowns with the Oilers.
Senior rforward Tim Dezelski closed out an unforgettable home career with a magnificent performance, going 8-for-15 from the field, scoring 23 points to go along with 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocked shots in 34 minutes.
In this game, Dezelski also became the first player in Hillsdale College men's basketball history to amass 600 points, 250 rebounds and 100 assists in the same season.
Manno made his first four shots from the field and finished with 11 points. Cooper scored 13 points and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds.
Kahlig made his first three shots from the field, all of them 3-pointers. But he missed 12 of his last 14 shots and finished the game with 15 points. Give credit to Dezelski and Pritzl, who played tight defense against Kahlig the entire night and kept the GLIAC's top scorer from dominating this game as he had his previous three.