The crowd was loud. The shots were falling. The will was there. But in the end, the Charger men's basketball team came up inches short against the No. 9 team in all of Division II.
Hillsdale's men's basketball team lost a heartbreaker, 75-70, to the University of Findlay Saturday afternoon at the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena. The loss snapped Hillsdale's eight-game winning streak and sets the team at 16-6 overall and 12-3 in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. The Chargers now sit in second place in the G-MAC, one game behind the Oilers.
The Chargers opened the game by feeding off a frenzied home crowd, going on a wild 19-2 run to open up a 13-point lead with 12:46 to go in the first half. This sequence was the Chargers at their best. They were quick on offense, moving the ball around and manufacturing open shots. The team rebounded its defensive boards well, not allowing the Oilers very many second looks at the rim.
But over the years, Findlay has proven itself to be a team capable of absorbing an offensive run by its opponent, and countering effectively. Despite the Chargers' early 13-point lead, it was the Oilers who led at halftime, 37-33.
Findlay would lead by as many as nine points, 56-47, more than halfway through the second half when the Chargers mustered up one more emotional run.
Sophomore Davis Larson, who would finish with a career-high 26 points, sank a pair of free throws that capped a 14-4 run that gave Hillsdale a 61-60 lead with 3:57 to go in the game. However, Findlay quickly struck back with a 7-0 run over the next 1:33 to take the lead for good.
Larson was awesome in this game, hitting eight of his first nine shots from the field - including three 3-pointers - to come up with his career-high in scoring. He found all kinds of ways to score, from working his way to the basket to finding open spots vs the Oilers' zone defense. It was another magnificent effort from Hillsdale's breakout star of the 2018-19 season.
Sophomore Austen Yarian came off the bench to tally 15 points and 9 rebounds in 29 strong minutes on the court. Sophomore guard Connor Hill played with energy and toughness in picking up 12 points and 4 assists.
The Oilers enjoyed a huge advantage from the free throw line in this game, outscoring the Chargers 31-7 from the charity stripe, an unheard of edge for any team at any level of basketball. Findlay did a good job of drawing contact on its dribble drives to the basket, and wore out a path to the free throw line the entire game.
Findlay went 31-for-42 from the line as a team compared to 7-for-11 for the Chargers. Hillsdale shot five percent better from the floor (49-44) and 10 percent better on 3-pointers (43-33), but a free throw edge of that size, against an opponent of Findlay's caliber is tough for any team to overcome.
PHOTO: MaryKate Drews