By Kevin Schrock
Nothing comes easy in tournament time, even at home. Grand Valley State came into Croy Gymnasium on Tuesday night looking to stymie the Oilers in the first round of the GLIAC conference tournament. They did so for the majority of the game but Findlay hit just enough shots and grabbed just enough rebounds down the stretch to edge the Lakers 67-59.
Findlay jumped out to a quick 14-10 lead before the Lakers took back over and carried that lead into the half. Down 30-27 the Oilers just couldn’t get the offense into any kind of rhythm.
“They were all over our guards and give them credit for that,” said Findlay coach Charlie Ernst. ”They’re bigs did a nice job of attacking our guards and maybe we showed a little fatigue but a lot of those three’s were rimming in and out.”
Grand Valley was doing their best to shut the Oilers down but Findlay was doing an equally exceptional job on the other end of the court. Neither team could pull away and back and forth it went.
“You’re not always going to shoot as well as we do but we really got after it on defense and that’s what you have to do,” said junior Elijah Kahlig. “I have to give a lot of credit to Grand Valley’s defense, they’re tough and hard to score on but we were able to get it done.”
For a team that only has two players that ever experienced a postseason win, the Oilers showed great poise down the stretch. Findlay went down 39-35 before going on a 9-2 run.
It was Aaron Overheiser scoring three on a bucket and a foul down low that gave Findlay a 49-44 lead.
“We got a lot of really good contributions from our bench,” said Ernst. “I thought Aaron Overheiser had a couple of really key buckets for us.”
Still, the Lakers worked hard to tie it back up and with eight minutes to go it was Taren Sullivan who also completed a three point play to give the Oilers the lead for good. The junior would end up with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
“It’s amazing how far Taren (Sullivan’s) game has come,” said Ernst. “His first five games as a freshman we were playing him as a point guard and we thought he was too soft as a point guard. Now we’re playing him as a power forward and he’s a double-double machine.”
Martyce Kimbrough and Kahlig iced the game with free throws down the stretch to send the Oilers into the semi-final round.
“We couldn’t get separation but I knew it was going to be a grinder like it was,” said Ernst. “I thought we might shoot the ball a little bit better but I’m not shocked just because I have watched them on video and I know how good they can be defensively.”
Kimbrough and Kahlig finished with 16 and 15 points respectively to go along with Sullivan’s 19. The two seniors Ricardo Smith and Tyler Stern-Tucker combined for 15 rebounds.
“I have to give my hats off to the seniors Tyler (Stern-Tucker) and Ricardo (Smith),” said Kahlig. “Being able to get this win for those guys and the crowd and our coaches was awesome.”
The Oilers will now spend the rest of the week preparing for their weekend at Ferris State. They will take on Ashland this Saturday and if they win will advance to the GLIAC final on Sunday.