Their faces were red with emotion, and jumps were leaps of joy.
The players and coaches of the Hillsdale College women's basketball team desperately needed a win, and it came in sweet fashion Saturday afternoon, coming back from several double-digit deficits to defeat Saginaw Valley State University 83-78 at the Hillsdale College Arena.
Hillsdale is now 4-8 overall and 3-5 in the GLIAC, and will start play against South Division teams next week, taking on Tiffin at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The Cardinals led the game by as many as 16 points (40-24) in the first half, and put on an impressive display of shooting and pressure defense against the Chargers. Hillsdale was able to cut the margin, only slightly, to 48-36 at halftime.
Slowly, but surely, Hillsdale adjusted, got well balanced scoring and played excellent team defense and cut the lead more and more as the game went along. The comeback featured smart and patient post work by junior Megan Fogt. A couple of timely jumpers by junior Kadie Lowery. A career-high in scoring from sophomore Madison Berry.
But as much as individual plays contributed to the final score, it was Hillsdale's will and belief that really carried it through.
SVSU led 72-65 with 5:57 to play when the Chargers made one final push, and finished the game on an 18-6 run. The last push was helped greatly by back-to-back 3-point field goals by sophomore Sarah Theut and Lowery. Those came after two Berry free throws, and suddenly, Hillsdale found itself in the lead for the first time, 73-72, with 3:50 to go.
SVSU missed two out of four free throws on successive possessions, keeping it from pulling away. Fogt converted an old-fashioned 3-point play that gave the Chargers the lead for good, 79-78, with 1:04 to go.
Berry then polished off the game by sinking four straight free throws, giving her the first 20-point game of her career. Berry also wrote her name in the record books by going 10-for-10 from the free throw line, earning her a tie for the best free throw percentage in a single game in school history.
Lowery came off the bench to score 8 points, hitting both of her 3-point attempts. She was part of a big game by Hillsdale's bench, which outscored SVSU's bench 20-5 in the game.
Fogt had another brilliant game despite constant double-teaming from the Cardinals, and had 20 points, 15 rebounds, 4 blocked shots and 3 assists in 39 rugged minutes.
Sophomore Kelsey Cromer was another bright spot offensively for the Chargers, regaining the shooting touch she showed last weekend when she scored 19 points in back to back games. Against SVSU, Cromer shot 6-for-11 from the field and had 15 points in the win.
Senior Angela Bisaro played a big second half despite foul trouble, and had 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocked shots, making key contributions to the win.