By RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
An exclusive Walters ‘n Words blog post
Ok, so maybe worry isn’t right word. It could be disappointment or surprise or — scratch that — worry is a fine worf.
The Hillsdale Charger women lost just their third game of the season Thursday night, but the way they lost, when they lost and what kind of team they lost to is somewhat alarming. If the Charger women were just another team that I thought would flame out in D-II postseason play anyways then I wouldn’t think twice about a one-point loss on a deep 3-pointer with six seconds left to a GLIAC foe. But I expect, as do most fans I think, that this is the type of team that is the exception not the norm at HC.
But now I’m worried. For starters, Hillsdale jumped out to a 15-0 lead against a team with a 7-11 GLIAC mark coming into the contest and couldn’t close them out. At tourney time the better team doesn’t always win because of unpredictable waves of momentum, but the Chargers let a team that isn’t much more that a collection of hot-and-cold guards have the last say Thursday.
The Chargers held the Wildcats to 9-of-31 shooting from the field in the first half, but Northern shot a scorching 56.3 percent and drained 5-of-11 from downtown in the second half. Defense and rebounding are the trademarks of Charney’s ladies and last night the Chargers failed at both over the course of the final 20 minutes. Against a Wildcat team that has no consistent post presence on offense and no single player who averages even six rebounds a game the letdown is unacceptable.
The Charger guards fight through screens and play help defense as well as any team I’ve seen this year, so it’s fine to attribute some of NMU’s hot-shooting to their players, but not all of it. Janay Miller and Brooke Knight rarely lose track of their assignments, and it’s hard for me to understand how they can keep Grand Valley’s guards at bay all game long, but not Northern’s.
Also, at first glance an 18-for-24 performance from the charity stripe from the Charger is more than sufficient, but upon further review it is a misleading stat.
Per Diem, Cezat was really the one at the line, as she took 20 of those, sinking 16. Whenever the rest of the team combines for four free throws it symbolizes a lack of aggression or the sheer inability to penetrate the defense. Earlier this season the Charger guards were deferring to Ceazt too much a times, but they’ve solved that in a big way over the last 4-6 weeks. Maybe it was the sub-zero temps in Marquette that froze the Chargers up or maybe last night was just a reminder of what happens when they get out-rebounded and the only player in attack mode is Cezat.
It’s easy to get caught up in all of the successes and achievements of this landmark Charger’s squad, but the players don’t want to just go to the national tournament, they want to show the nation what this incredible team from little old Hillsdale, and a school of just 1,200 playing in a league of giants, is one of the best, if not the best.
I want to look back on Thursday’s shocking loss as a great lesson, but giving the timing it might be looked back on differently.
The Chargers had FINALLY gained the ever so evasive top spot in the Midwest Regional Rankings as of Wednesday, setting them up to host the first few rounds of D-II tournament play. Michigan Tech had faltered, and Hillsdale leapfrogged Northern Kentucky just in time to go beat the Wildcats and punch Tech in the face on Saturday, before finishing things off next week.
To lose a game to a sub-.500 GLIAC squad with so much on the line is disappointing after working so hard to position themselves to pack Jesse Phillips Arena in less than a month is bitter.
Thursday simply shook my dreamy vision of what the Chargers were and what they could be. All I’m asking is for them to quickly remind me of what has made us fall so hard for them in the first place.
Some relationships are just dependent on results and success and this is one of them.
Here is the entire game recap from Hillsdale College Sports Information:
An NBA-range 3-point field goal by Northern Michigan’s Kelsey Deacon with six seconds remaining game the host Wildcats a 69-68 upset of the No. 5-ranked Hillsdale College women’s basketball team Thursday night in Marquette.
The Chargers are now 21-3 overall and 16-3 in the GLIAC, and will travel to Michigan Tech University for a Saturday afternoon showdown of conference division leaders.
Deacon’s shot came after an oft-used, but rarely executed strategy pulled off by the Wildcats. NMU’s Steffani Stoeger purposely missed the second of two free throws, after her first make made the score 68-66. Northern Michigan’s Angie Leckson grabbed the offensive rebound and passed the ball out to Deacon, who drained a basket from well beyond the 3-point arc. The Chargers were unable to get a shot off on the final possession of the game.
Northern Michigan shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half, compared to 39 percent for the Chargers. Hillsdale led the game 33-23 at halftime.
The Chargers opened the game red-hot in the ice-cold arena in the Upper Peninsula. Hillsdale held a 15-0 lead through the game’s first 10 minutes. NMU didn’t make a basket in the game’s first 10 minutes, and didn’t make a two-point basket until six minutes remained in the first half.
But 3-point baskets proved to be the major difference in the game. The Wildcats outscored the Chargers 27-6 in shots from behind the arc, making 9-of-21 in the contest.
Hillsdale led through most of the game, with the Wildcats taking their first lead with 7:14 left in the second half. NMU took 10 more shots from the field than Hillsdale, thanks in part to a 13-8 edge in offensive rebounds, none bigger than the one coming in the game’s final seven seconds.
Charger senior Katie Cezat had another monster game for the Chargers, finishing with 32 points and 21 rebounds. She was 16-for-20 from the free throw line, the second-highest totals of her career in both makes and attempts. She now has 21 double-doubles this season, 11 30-point games and eight 20-rebound games.
Thanks to her 32 points, Cezat broke her own single-season scoring record, set last season. She now has 681 points during the 2008-09 season.
Senior Katie Eckinger and junior Janay Miller each scored 11 points for the Chargers. Hillsdale’s three losses this season have come by a combined total of five points. Deacon scored 23 points for the Wildcats.