The sacrifice of a Spring Break is one the players on the Hillsdale College women's basketball team are thrilled to make.
The Chargers completed an amazing conference tournament run with an 81-70 win over the University of Findlay to claim the 2017-18 Great Midwest Conference Tournament championship. It is the third conference tournament title in program history and comes on the heels of Hillsdale missing the postseason entirely the past two years.
This 2017-18 team joins past Charger teams in 2001-02 and 2008-09 as conference tournament champions.
Hillsdale also receives an automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Tournament, its fifth all-time appearance at NCAAs. Past NCAA qualifying seasons were 2001-02, 2002-03, 2007-08 and 2008-09.
This brilliant week of basketball was put together by first-year head coach Matt Fritsche, who designed a system to maximize the considerable talents of his players. They blossomed under this approach, becoming a lethal team to deal with offensively.
That characteristic offensive balance was on full display in the championship game, as five different players scored in double figures. Hillsdale shot 50 percent from the field and 87 percent from the free throw line, keeping constant pressure on the Oilers, then closing out an unforgettable weekend of wins.
Findlay led by one at halftime, 35-34, and the Chargers flipped that to a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. But the Chargers blew up in the game's final 10 minutes, outscoring Findlay 32-22 to pull away with the win.
Sophomore guard Bree Porter made two huge 3-point baskets in the fourth quarter to keep Hillsdale's lead trending upward. Her shot from beyond the arc with 4:13 to go gave Hillsdale its first double digit lead of the game, 67-57.
Down the stretch, Hillsdale made 10 out of 10 free throws to stay comfortably ahead. It's attention to details like that which make this Charger team so successful.
Four of the team's five starters scored in double figures, led by a splendid 22-point game by junior forward Brittany Gray. She connected on 7-of-13 shots from the floor and made a career-high six 3-point baskets.
Junior Makenna Ott was outstanding with 12 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots, going 6-for-13 from the floor. Senior center Allie Dittmer made her first six straight shots of the game, and was tough inside with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists. She finished 8-for-11 shooting from the field.
Junior guard Allie Dewire, a strong force throughout the weekend, had another terrific ballgame with 16 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. Her constant movement and quickness towards the basket made her a near-impossible cover throughout Hillsdale's tournament run.
The NCAA women's basketball selection show will take place at 10 p.m. Sunday night, at which time Hillsdale will find out who its next opponent will be.