HILLSDALE, Mich. — Hillsdale built a huge early lead, then hung on at the end to defeat Findlay 75-69 on Thursday night at Jesse Philips Arena. Hillsdale is now 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the GLIAC, and will remain home Saturday to battle Lake Superior State.
This was Hillsdale’s first win against Findlay since Jan. 24, 2002. The Oilers now own a 42-6 all-time record against the Chargers, but this is the one Hillsdale’s players and fans will remember for a long time.
The most memorable part of this game for Hillsdale was unquestionably the first half. Playing nearly perfect basketball, the Chargers built an incredible 26-2 lead in the first 11 minutes of the first half. Everything Hillsdale did worked. The team’s defense was quick and aggressive, forcing 10 Oilers turnovers in the game’s first seven minutes. The team ran its motion offense with patience and precision, with players making great decisions every time they touched the basketball.
The Chargers grabbed a 39-15 lead at the half.
That inevitable run by the Oilers built throughout the second half. Findlay chipped away at the lead gradually, increasing its defensive intensity while starting to string together baskets. Although the Chargers never panicked, Findlay took the initiative throughout the game’s final 15 minutes, closing the gap to as little as three points (67-64) in the final minutes. But clutch free throw shooting by Tyler Gerber was a key to Hillsdale keeping just enough distance away from Findlay to avoid the monumental collapse.
But perhaps the game’s biggest shot came on a high-arcing 3-pointer by sophomore guard Brandon Pritzl. After Findlay cut the lead to three, sophomore guard Darius Ware made one free throw, to make the score 68-64. The Chargers forced a turnover, then worked the ball around to Pritzl, who in the waning seconds of the shot clock, sent a shot up that bounced off the back rim, then fell cleanly through the hoop to bring the crowd to its feet, and retore an eight-point lead for Hillsdale with 43 seconds left. That proved to be too big of a lead with too little time remaining for the Oilers to deal with.
Four starters scored in double figures for the Chargers, led by 19 from senior Brent Eaton, who went 6-for-9 from the field. Gerber had 12 points, five assists and four steals, while senior Brad Guinane added 12 points and a season-high six assists. Junior Nick Washburn worked around foul trouble to play 22 effective minutes, with 10 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.
In building the first-half lead, the Chargers shot 65 percent from the floor. Hillsdale forced 17 Findlay turnovers in the game, and had 20 assists on 24 made field goals.