Finally, the Hillsdale College men's basketball team got to show off the grit and skill that's carried it to first place in the conference in front of a loud and lively home crowd.
The student section was alive and a large group of alumni were no doubt proud of the effort this Charger team put together in a 79-66 win over a very good Cedarville University team Saturday afternoon at the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena.
The win, Hillsdale's eighth in a row, makes it 16-5 overall and 12-2 in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. The Chargers remain tied for first with their next opponent, Findlay, who's coming to town for a massive showdown next Saturday.
Four players scored in double figures and the team connected on 13 3-point baskets in a dazzling offensive performance against the Yellow Jackets' challenging matchup zone defense. Hillsdale was efficient on offense from every angle, recording 20 assists on 30 made field goals and shooting 49 percent from the field and 48 percent on 3-point shots.
The Yellow Jackets were the aggressor early however, jumping out to a 26-19 lead 13 minutes into the game. Keeping Hillsdale afloat during its tough start was sophomore Davis Larson, who was on fire to open the game. He scored 14 of the team's first 19 points, and scored in a wide array of ways, from quick-look layups to wide-open threes.
After Larson's three-point play gave the Chargers a 19-17 lead, they surrendered a 9-0 run that allowed the Jackets to take their biggest lead of the game. But by halftime, Hillsdale was back in front when everyone else chipped in on offense.
Hillsdale finished the half on a 19-9 run to take a three-point lead into halftime. Cedarville led 44-42 a few minutes into the second half when the Chargers simply took over.
The home team went wild, going on an 11-0 run that featured a 3-pointer by Harrison Niego, a breakaway dunk by Trenton Richardson and a high-arcing jumper by Austen Yarian. The Jackets would cut the lead to 4, but Hillsdale counter-punched with a 14-4 run to break the game open.
Larson would lead the team with 18 points, going 7-for-11 from the field while making three 3-point baskets. Niego added 17 with a season-high 4 steals. Yarian came off the bench to add 10 points, 4 rebounds and a season-high 6 assists.
Sophomore guard Connor Hill came off the bench to play 18 minutes and really put a stamp on this game with some terrific point guard play. He had 12 points and 3 steals, going 5-for-9 from the floor and 2-for-4 from 3-point range. His tough on-ball defense was also vitally important to the Chargers being able to shut the Cedarville defense down, particularly in the second half.
Hillsdale's eight-game winning streak is its longest since the 2011-12 season.
PHOTO: MaryKate Drews