Tech men pull away from Chargers

HOUGHTON – Ben Stelzer scored 29 points for the second straight game, and Michigan Tech’s starting frontcourt made big plays down the stretch to lift the Huskies to a 72-62 triumph over Hillsdale in GLIAC men’s basketball tonight at the SDC Gym. Phil Romback and Luke Heller combined for 16 second-half points to help Tech take a three-game lead in the race for a home playoff game.

Tech (16-6, 13-5 GLIAC) led 31-27 at the break, but Hillsdale (10-12, 8-10 GLIAC) scored the first seven points of the second half for a three-point advantage.

Romback then had all 10 Huskies’ points during a 10-2 run that gave the hosts a 41-36 lead with 12:51 remaining. HC hit a 3-pointer to close within 46-44 at the eight-minute mark.

Heller drove to the hoop on back-to-back possessions for an eight-point cushion with 5:58 showing.

Kyle Cooper scored the last of his 21 points on a triple with 3:03 left to again pull the Chargers within a pair (54-52). Stelzer answered immediately with a 3-pointer of his own, and Jordan Chartier added another for an eight-point gap with 2:00 to play.

Tech went on to make all of their final 12 free throws in the final 90 seconds for the 10-point victory.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Tech coach Kevin Luke. “They’re well coached with one of the best players in the league.

“I though Phil kept us in the game in the second half, and Luke got us some separation. Then Ben and Jordan made big shots. It was a nice team win.

Tech had open looks from the outside all night as Hillsdale employed a 3-2 zone for long stretches. The Black and Gold shot just 33 percent (9-of-27) from behind the arc with several looks that rattled out.

With rebounds (28 apiece) and shooting (both teams near 44 percent) nearly identical, turnovers proved to be a key statistic. The Huskies committed just five to the Chargers’ 13.

Stelzer’s 29 came on 9-of-15 shooting. Romback totaled 13 and a team-high six rebounds. Chartier also reached double digits with 11.

Cooper posted 21 and a game-high seven boards for HC.

Paired with an Ashland loss, Tech now has a three-game lead over the fifth-place team in the GLIAC standings. The teams with the four best league records at the end of the regular season will host a first-round GLIAC Tournament game.

Michigan Tech takes on GLIAC-leading Saginaw Valley State Saturday (Feb. 14) at the SDC Gym at 3 p.m. The Huskies will honor their three seniors prior to the game as they look for the season sweep of the Cardinals.

(Information/Photo Courtesy of MTU Athletics)