The most fun home game of the 2018-19 season resulted in a huge win for the Hillsdale College men's basketball team.
The Chargers came back from an 8-point second-half deficit to edge Ohio Dominican University 67-65 Saturday afternoon at the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena. Hillsdale, now winners of three straight, is 11-5 overall and 7-2 in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.
A perfectly executed pick-and-roll between guard Dylan Lowry and forward Austen Yarian resulted in the game-deciding score with 27 seconds to go. It was the second time in three possessions the Chargers ran that play in the game's final two minutes, and Yarian finished off both to get Hillsdale the clutch points it needed to knock off the defending G-MAC tournament champions.
The game turned on a sequence that took place with 10:42 to go in the second half. ODU led 51-43 when Charger senior Nick Czarnowski caught an entry pass from Connor Hill, landed and in one motion, laid the ball into the basket. The referees initially called Czarnowski for a charge. However, they conferred and changed the foul call to a block on the Panthers. Czarnowski made the subsequent free throw, over the objections of ODU players, coaches and fans.
Lowry drew a foul on a 3-point attempt on Hillsdale's next possession, and drained all three to suddenly turn the game into a two-point contest, 51-49, with 10:03 to go.
The Czarnowski play sparked a 10-0 Hillsdale run that gave the team its first lead 53-51, with 9:07 to go. Senior guard Harrison Niego nailed a 3-point shot to cap the run, and the Chargers would only trail once the rest of the way.
Niego was outstanding in this game, finishing with a team-high 19 points, making five 3-point field goals. He contributed in other ways too, with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in an impactful performance.
Senior guard Nate Neveau looked much like his healthy self in this game, scoring 10 points with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He went 3-for-5 from 3-point territory and looked the most comfortable he's looked since returning from injury.
Davis Larson turned in another steady performance with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in 30 minutes, and Yarian came off the bench to score 11 points with 4 rebounds and 2 assists.
Senior Gordon Behr was a force inside with 5 blocked shots for the Chargers. As a team, Hillsdale held a 7-1 edge in blocked shots over the Panthers, who were without the services of their best post player, Hassan Varance.
ODU outrebounded Hillsdale 39-30, but the Chargers held critical advantages in turnovers (17-to-6), points off turnovers (14-6) and bench scoring (25-4).
PHOTO: Megan Miller