By BRIAN LESTER
PAINESVILLE — Greg Kahlig is money in the moment.
Since childhood, he has been knocking down the big-time shots every kid who has ever picked up a basketball dreams of making with the pressure rising.
He made a few more Saturday afternoon in a grueling road game against Lake Erie College, none bigger than the one with 1:32 on the clock and a win hanging in the balance for the University of Findlay men’s basketball team.
Kahlig stood at the top of the 3-point line after getting the ball on a pass from Alphonso Baity and let it fly. It swished through the net and, as it did, Kahlig raised his hand up and looked over at his teammates celebrating on the bench.
The Oilers had a four-point lead and momentum, which they rode to a 79-69 victory over the Storm in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game at the Osborne Center.
That shot was the exclamation point on a remarkable 40-point performance. He is the first Oiler to score 40 in a game since Kyle Hunt hung 42 on Benedictine (Kan.) 14 years ago.
“Ever since I was younger, I’ve always wanted the ball in my hands to hit those shots,” Kahlig said. “It’s good when they go in, and not so good when they don’t. Fortunately, they went in again today.”
There seems to be something about the way Kahlig handles the pressure moments. He embraces them and shoots with remarkable confidence.
Kahlig, now one of only eight UF players to ever score at least 40 in a game, credits the success to his teammates. And with the Oilers up 68-67 with less than two minutes to play, he knew it was time to step up. His sixth and final trey gave the Oilers a 71-67 advantage.
“I have a lot of confidence and my teammates have a lot of confidence in me to take those shots,” Kahlig said. “The shot clock was winding down on that 3-pointer and I knew we needed a shot. Fortunately, it went in.”
Kahlig ranks ninth all-time at UF in points with 1,666 after going 11 of 16 from the field, 6 of 10 from beyond the arc and 12 of 13 from the free-throw line. The senior forward also grabbed seven boards and tallied three steals.
“Greg was telling his teammates in the huddle during timeouts that he was feeling it and to give him the ball,” UF head coach Charlie Ernst said. “He is such a tough matchup for teams. When he plays like he did today, the rest of the guys just get out of the way.”
Yet, even with the dazzling performance by Kahlig, this win, the sixth consecutive for the Oilers (19-4, 15-4 GLIAC), was a team win in every sense of the word, particularly on defense.
Most of the day, the Oilers struggled to slow down the Storm (9-16, 6-13 GLIAC), which shot 38.7 percent (24 of 62) from the field and made 11 3-pointers, including eight in the first half. It led 37-36 at halftime after Riley Thomas nailed a trey at the buzzer. He finished with 17 points.
But when it mattered most, the Oilers were at their best on defense. They made outside shots tough to come by and were quick to get rebounds after just one shot.
In the final four minutes, the Storm made only two field goals and the Oilers closed the game on a 13-2 run that was sealed on two free throws apiece by Kahlig, Jake Heagen and Baity.
The win keeps UF a half game behind Walsh in the South Division and in third in the overall standings.
“It took a great team effort, and we played well defensively when it mattered most,” Ernst said. “We finally, finally, got the stops we needed. Lake Erie played really well and shot the heck out of the ball. I feel really good about this win. I’m proud of the team.”
Nothing came easy for either team. The score was tied 11 times and the lead changed hands 26 times.
Yet, it looked as if the Storm was going to pull off the upset and end its four-game losing streak when it was up 61-55 with 6:52 to play after a trey by Sean Howard.
But Kahlig nailed a jumper moments later to cut the lead to four and followed that shot up with two free throws and a 3-pointer. Mark Frilling made one of the biggest plays when he grabbed a rebound off a missed trey and scored on a putback to give UF a 64-63 lead.
¨That was a big play by Mark and just a gutty effort by our team,¨ Ernst said. ¨We won two tough road games this week, and now we got another big one this week.”
The big one, of course, is the game with Walsh on Thursday night in a 7:30 p.m. game in Canton. The Cavaliers had their way with the Oilers in the meeting last month and won 81-61 at Croy Gymnasium.
The game will carry a lot of weight for the division and positioning in the GLIAC and NCAA tournaments.
“This week will be fun,” Ernst said. “It will be a tough game. Walsh is very good, but I think we are a better team than we showed the first time. We need to have a good week of practice, a good game plan and see what happens.”
findlay (19-4, 15-4 GLIAC)
Heagen 4-8 4-4 15, Kahlig 11-16 12-13 40, Frilling 2-2 0-1 4, Baity 1-5, 6-6 8, Kaufman 2-6 0-0 6, Samsel 0-0 1-3 1, Smith 1-2 0-0 2, Jones 0-1 3-4 3, Gardner 0-1 0-0 0, Staley 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 21-41 26-31–79.
lake erie (9-16, 6-13 GLIAC)
Sims 5-8 1-1 11, Parker 1-8 1-2 4, Thomas 5-12 4-4 17, Tait 4-9 2-2 13, Barth 1-2 0-0 3, Howard 3-7 0-0 7, Wells 1-3 0-0 3, Walczak 3-6 2-2 8 Morris 1-3 0-0 3, Walters 0-1 0-0 0, Bosley 0-3 0-0 0. TOTALS: 24-62 10-11–69.
HALFTIME: Lake Erie, 37-36.
3-Point GOALS: Findlay 11-20 (Kahlig 6-10, Heagen 3-3, Kaufman 2-5, Baity 0-1, Gardner 0-1); Lake Erie 11-23 (Tait 3-5, Thomas 3-7, Parker 1-2, Barth 1-2, Wells 1-2, Morris 1-2, Howard 1-3).
rebounds: Findlay 33 (Heagen & Kahlig 7); Lake Erie 29 (Sims & Morris 5).
ASSISTS: Findlay 14 (Baity 6); Lake Erie 13 (Thomas 3).
STEALS: Findlay 8, Lake Erie 7.
BLOCKS: Findlay 8, Lake Erie 0.
TURNOVERS: Findlay 17, Lake Erie 13.
TOTAL FOULS: Findlay 15, Lake Erie 27.
FOULED OUT: None.
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