The two best defensive teams in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference squared off at the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena Thursday night.
Hillsdale and Lake Erie were two of five teams tied for first in the league with a 3-1 record. But thanks in big part to senior guard Jonathan Wilkinson, Hillsdale helped to break up that logjam just a bit with a 61-47 win over the Storm.
The Chargers are now 7-4 overall and 4-1 in conference play and move a game ahead of Lake Erie (6-5, 3-2) in the standings.
These teams are tough, defensive-minded squads who make others teams earn every point the hard way. That was reflected in the halftime score of 24-23, a half that was deliberately paced on both sides.
Enter Wilkinson, who changed the feel of the game with his red-hot shooting.
He entered the game with Hillsdale holding a 30-26 lead early in the second half. He proceeded to go on a personal 12-5 run, making four 3-point shots on four consecutive possessions to electrify the crowd and his teammates. By the time his fourth shot swished through the net, Hillsdale found itself with an 11-point lead, just three minutes after he entered the ballgame.
The Chargers never led by single digits again, getting all the momentum they needed from a trusty veteran who has been playing his best basketball in the past couple weeks.
Defensively, Hillsdale combined tireless effort and tenacity, giving the Storm players very little air space in any spot on the floor. Lake Erie shot 17-for-54 from the field, a .315 shooting percentage. The Storm made just four of 19 shots from 3-point land, many of them forced and under diress from a quick and anticipatory Hillsdale defense.
The Chargers also enjoyed a 39-34 edge on the boards and went 9-for-19 as a team on 3-point shots.
Senior center Nick Czarnowski led a balanced attack on offense with 15 points, going 7-for-10 from the floor. Junior guard Dylan Lowry had 13 points, connecting on three 3-point field goals. Wilkinson scored all 12 of his points in his game-changing stretch early in the second half.
Sophomore Davis Larson missed each of his first four shots from the floor, but made a big impact on all other areas. His 11 rebounds and 4 steals were both season-highs and he dished out 3 assists. He made three of his last four shots to finish with 8 points.
PHOTO: Todd Lancaster