If your season is going to end, might as well end against the best team in the country.
The Hillsdale College women's basketball team fought valiantly, but lost to undefeated and No. 1 Ashland University 104-82 Friday evening in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Quarterfinal at Ashland's Kates Gymnasium.
The Chargers' season ends with a 19-11 overall record.
All season long, Ashland has routinely blown out opponents. It has won 14 games by 40 or more points this season and came into the game averaging 101 points per game. None of that mattered to this Hillsdale team, who went right at the Eagles and made them sweat out this regional matchup.
The Chargers fell behind early thanks to some deadly outside shooting by the Eagles, particularly from guard Renee Stimpert. She entered the game averaging 1.1 made 3-point baskets per game, but connected on four of her first six shots from beyond the arc, helping the Eagles soar out to a xx-xx lead in the first half.
Ashland's edge stood at 59-34 at halftime, but in the second half, Hillsdale showed the stuff it's made of by going right after Ashland, and cut the lead to as close as 14 early in the fourth quarter. In the second half, Hillsdale outscored Ashland 48-45, and the Chargers' 82 points scored were the fourth-most allowed by the Eagles all season.
Senior Allie Dittmer capped a terrific career with the highest scoring game she's ever registered as a Charger. She finished with a game-high 31 points, going 13-for-17 from the field to go along with 9 rebounds.
Dittmer smartly advanced upcourt against Ashland's relentless pressing defense. When the Chargers were able to successfully navigate that pressure, they often found Dittmer alone under the basket for wide-open layups.
The speed and skill of guard Allie Dewire was a big key in Hillsdale's ability to handle the big, strong and quick Eagles. Dewire broke Ashland's defense down time after time and set her teammates up for easy baskets. Hillsdale finished with 21 assists on 32 made baskets, and the team's leading playmaker was sophomore guard Bree Porter, who came off the bench to hand out a career-high 6 assists in 27 minutes played.
Junior Brittany Gray hit three 3-point field goals and finished with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Junior Makenna Ott was 4-for-6 from beyond the arc and had 14 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
Hillsdale shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half (18-for-36), matching Ashland's percentage in the final 20 minutes. But it was the Eagles' blazing performance from the perimeter in the first half that made the ultimate difference.