By BRIAN LESTER
Mark Frilling wasn’t supposed to be the hero Thursday night against Saginaw Valley State.
But with the pressure rising and the University of Findlay men’s basketball team on the brink of a third consecutive loss, the senior forward took it upon himself to step up in crunch time in what turned out to be an 80-79 overtime victory for the Oilers.
With UF clinging to a one-point lead in overtime, Frilling grabbed a defensive rebound and fell to the floor with the ball in his hands. Immediately, Saginaw Valley players swarmed him like horde of linebackers tackling a running back.
Frilling managed to call a timeout in the midst of the madness, and despite two misses by Greg Kahlig on a pair of free throws with five-tenths of a second left, the Oilers hung on for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory.
“We have each other’s backs,” Frilling said. “Someone is always capable of stepping up and I knew someone had to make a play.”
UF head coach Charlie Ernst wasn’t surprised Frilling stepped up.
“Mark not only gets the rebound, but he has the awareness to call a timeout in a mobbing mess down there,” Ernst said. “That is his 4.0 GPA coming out right there.”
It wasn’t just the rebound that made Frilling the hero on a night when the Oilers (8-3, 4-3 GLIAC) were pushed to the brink of defeat.
Go back to the final seconds ticking away in regulation and the Oilers in desperation mode to make a play as they trailed the Cardinals 70-69. The play in that moment was never designed for Frilling. Instead, the ball was supposed to end up in the hands of Alphonso Baity, or perhaps Kahlig.
But sometimes things change, and Frilling put the ball on the floor and drove right to the basket. He drew a foul as he leaned in for his shot, scoring on the play as the crowd roared to its feet. His free throw was missed but UF had a 71-70 lead with 9.2 seconds to go.
The Cardinals forced OT as Damon Bozeman split a pair of free throws with one second left.
“The play was drawn up for Alphonso. We thought he was going to get a good matchup,” Frilling said. “But they played good defense and I took the lane and made the shot.”
Frilling, who averages 3.9 points per game, scored six points against SVSU (5-6, 1-6) and also pulled down nine rebounds.
“Mark epitomizes Findlay basketball,” Ernst said. “He battles, he competes, he defends and he finds a way. When they took away Alphonso and took away Greg, Mark just improvised and made a tough shot.”
Overtime didn’t seem likely mid-way through the second half. The Oilers led 48-38 after a dunk and two free throws by Dylan Kaufman. Kaufman eventually pushed the UF advantage to 55-38 when he drove inside for a layup, got the foul, and completed the 3-point play.
Saginaw Valley refused to quit, though. The Cardinals repeatedly attacked the basket behind Calvin Turnage, who dropped in 26 points, and took advantage of a 16 of 26 performance from the free-throw line by the Oilers.
Saginaw Valley only trailed 37-35 at halftime and led 70-67 with 55 seconds left after a layup by Sterling Johnson.
Ernst wasn’t surprised by the comeback.
“We knew it was going to be a war, and every time we thought we were going to put the dagger in, they fought back,” Ernst said. “That is the sign of a well-coached team. They compete so hard and defend hard. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
At the same time, Ernst thought his team played a little tight with the lead, perhaps the result of having lost two games last week where the Oilers had the lead in the final five minutes.
“Fortunately, we made some plays at the end,” Ernst said.
The Oilers shot 51.9 percent (28 of 54) from the field and got 24 points out of Kahlig. Jake Heagen added 18 points, coming up with one of his biggest shots on a jumper after nearly losing the ball on a pass. He was able to recover and drill the shot for a 67-63 lead. Baity finished with 14 points and Kaufman scored 11.
The Oilers return to action at 3 p.m. Saturday when they host Wayne State (6-4, 4-3).
SAGINAW VALLEY (5-6, 1-6)
Turnage 13-22 0-3 26, Gelhaus 2-9 0-0 4, Smith 1-2 0-0 2, Hall 2-9 1-2 7, Bozeman 6-19 6-9 19, Johnson 5-6 0-0 11, Adams 1-3 0-1 2, Davis 3-4 0-0 6, Fugate 1-2 0-0 2, Foreman 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 34-77 7-15–79.
findlay (8-3, 4-3)
Heagen 7-9 3-5 18, Kahlig 8-15 6-10 24, Frilling 3-6 0-1 6, Baity 4-6 3-4 14, Kaufman 3-10 4-5 11, Gardner 1-1 0-1 3, Samsel 0-3 0-0 0, Smith 1-1 0-0 2, Staley 0-0 0-0 0, Stern-Tucker 0-0 0-0 0, Jones 1-3 0-0 2. TOTALS: 28-54 16-26–80.
3-Point GOALS: Saginaw Valley 4-17 (Smith 0-1, Hall 2-7, Bozeman 1-6, Johnson 1-1, Davis 0-1, Foreman 0-1); Findlay 8-18 (Heagen 1-3, Kahlig 2-4, Baity 3-3, Kaufman 1-4, Gardner 1-1, Samsel 0-3).
rebounds: Saginaw Valley 44 (Turnage 8, Smith 6, Bozeman 6); Findlay 38 (Frilling 9, Kaufman 7).
ASSISTS: Saginaw Valley 17 (Smith 5); Findlay 13 (Kahlig 4).
STEALS: Saginaw Valley 9 (Hall 4); Findlay 4 (Kaufman 2).
BLOCKS: Saginaw Valley 0; Findlay 10 (Baity 3).
TURNOVERS: Saginaw Valley 10, Findlay 15.
TOTAL FOULS: Saginaw Valley 22, Findlay 13.
FOULED OUT: none.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 37-35.
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