The Charger basketball team did itself, its history and its campus proud Tuesday night.
Playing No. 1 seed Ferris State, the Chargers gave it everything they had, ultimately losing an 87-84 contest at the Jim Wink Arena in Big Rapids in a GLIAC Tournament Quarterfinal.
Hillsdale's season concludes with a 15-12 record. Ferris State improved to 25-4.
Hillsdale did nearly everything one would need from a road team in a 1-8 conference tournament playoff matchup. The Chargers frankly, shot the lights out, hitting 65.5 percent of its shots from the floor in the game. Hillsdale outrebounded Ferris State as well, 26-25, and had an 18-point scoring edge in points in the paint (56-38).
The first half saw the Chargers play nearly flawless basketball, shooting 21-for-28 from the floor (75 percent) and building a 13-point lead at halftime. But Ferris State responded impressively, and clawed back into the game thanks to the sport's great equalizer, the 3-point shot.
The Bulldogs made seven 3-point baskets in the second half, and played the draw-and-kick game to perfection in making those baskets to get back into the contest.
Ferris State trailed for nearly 35 minutes of the contest, but the last two minutes were thrilling, breathless exchanges of big shots by both teams. The lead changed nine times and was tied seven times in the game.
Sophomore guard Nate Neveau made a 3-point shot with eight seconds left to tie the game at 84, a cold-blooded shot from a player who is the ultimate picture of cool in tense situations.
The Bulldogs ran the ball right up the court, without calling a timeout, after Neveau's made three. Guard Drew Cushingberry pump-faked and draw a foul four steps across half court, with 1.4 seconds to go in the game. Cushingberry, who led all players with 26 points, calmly sank all three free throws.
Hillsdale's subsequent inbounds pass was intercepted, ending a classic contest between longtime conference rivals.
Six players scored in double figures for Hillsdale, led by Neveau's 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Stedman Lowry scored 14 points, hitting two 3-pointers, and converting a four-point play late in the second half.
Ferris State's two big advantages were on 3-point shots and at the free throw line. The Bulldogs outscored the Chargers 17-7 from the charity stripe, going 17-of-19 as a team. FSU's 30-15 scoring advantage on 3-point shots was accentuated during its second-half run.
This was Hillsdale's last basketball game as a member of the GLIAC. When next we see the boys in blue, they will be a member of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.