By BRIAN LESTER
Over and over again this week, the University of Findlay men’s basketball team watched the video of the beatdown it suffered at the hands of rival Hillsdale College last Thursday night in Michigan.
Senior forward Mark Frilling was getting tired of it, tired to the point where there was only one option on Wednesday night in a showdown against the Chargers in the quarterfinals of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament at Croy Gymnasium.
“We were going to come out fired up, play tough and play hard on defense,” Frilling said. “We watched that film so many times of that game, we were getting mad at it.”
Angry and energized, the Oilers channeled both emotions into a 67-47 win over Hillsdale. It was big win for two reasons.
First, it catapulted the Oilers (22-5) into the GLIAC tournament final four this weekend.
And second, the win, combined with eighth-seeded Malone’s 73-65 upset win over top-seeded Lake Superior State, secures home-court advantage for second-seeded UF through the rest of the tourney.
It marks the first time since 2010 UF will host the final four. The Oilers could have secured homecourt advantage last week had it beaten Hillsdale.
Instead, UF was hammered 86-67.
Fate provided the Oilers with a second chance.
“It’s crazy,” Frilling said. “It’s a dream come true. You don’t always get second chances. We have one and we need to make the most of it.”
Frilling played a pivotal role in leading the effort against the Chargers (18-9), scoring 5 points, grabbing nine rebounds and sacrificing his body a few times to take a charge.
Frilling helped get the Oilers started as he scored off a missed shot and then came through with a layup as UF opened up a 6-0 lead.
His teammates played with energy as well as the Oilers were aggressive on defense, denying the Chargers good looks at the basket from the outside and making it tough to get in the paint for easy shots.
Hillsdale shot just 33.3 percent (15-of-45) from the floor and went just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc, a miserable effort when you consider the Chargers had made 23 treys in the first two meetings against UF.
Tim Dezelski, Bradon Pritzl and Kyle Cooper all scored 10 points for the Chargers.
“Our defensive effort was one for the ages,” UF head coach Charlie Ernst said. “Hillsdale is a good offensive team with a lot of weapons. We had time to see where we went wrong. We made adjustments and guarded them harder, longer and tougher. We played for each other and sold out for each other.”
One of the keys was how active the Oilers were defensively, hustling for loose balls, battling for rebounds and deflecting passes on a consistent basis. UF forced 14 turnovers, including seven off steals.
“The single best thing we did tonight was guard the ball,” Ernst said. “We had numerous deflections and we were keeping that stat tonight. It was key. In the first four minutes, we had six deflections. It set the tone. Every pass they made was challenged by guys guarding the ball.”
Alphonso Baity stepped up and played a key role offensively, scoring 18 points, including 11 in the first half. His 3-pointer pushed the Oilers in front 22-10. He scored on a putback just before the end of the half as UF took a 35-20 lead into intermission.
Baity was 6-of-11 from the floor, hitting two treys along the way, and he also grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists.
“Everyone has to produce to come out on top, especially in the tournament,” Baity said. “It wasn’t just me scoring points. We had a lot of guys step up and we all played hard and defended well.”
Greg Kahlig, named the GLIAC Player of the Year earlier this week, finished with 16 points. He made sure the Oilers didn’t start slow in the second half as he drilled a 3-pointer, scored on a drive and then scored on a putback for a 42-20 UF lead.
Kahlig ‘s highlight of the night was a 3-pointer he hit in the corner with a second left in the shot clock. He got the ball up over the defender leaping at him and nailed it as the Oilers surged in front 50-28 with 11:50 to play.
John Staley and Jake Heagen also stepped up. Staley came off the bench and scored 9 points, cutting inside for easy shots as he played with all-out effort.
Heagen scored 8 points, punctuating his effort by stealing the ball and taking off for a dunk while a defender tried to chase him. Heagen rose up and threw down the one-hand jam, sending the crowd of 851 into a frenzy.
Staley said it was huge for the Oilers to play as a team and play with so much energy. He also said the sting of last week’s loss to the Chargers wasn’t forgotten.
“We remembered it and we talked all week about how they took it to us and had fun,” Staley said. “It was our turn to have some fun. We got after them on defense, and when you do that, everything else falls into place.”
Now, the Oilers shift their attention to 1 p.m. Saturday and a third meeting with Walsh in a GLIAC tournament semifinal game at Croy Gymnasium. The third-seeded Cavaliers (22-5) defeated Northwood 84-76 on Wednesday.
Michigan Tech and Malone will play in the 3 p.m. semifinal. The championship is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II tournament.
The Oilers will be gunning for their seventh trip to the title game in the last eight years. They have won a record seven GLIAC tourney championships.
“Hosting it is a dream come true,” Baity said. “This was one of our goals and we accomplished it. We earned it. We have to be ready to play hard again Saturday.”
Nelson 0-0 2-2 2, Cooper 4-7 2-2 10, Dezelski 4-11 2-2 10, Smith 1-2 0-0 3, Pritzl 4-10 0-0 10, Schell 0-0 0-0 0, Miller 1-3 2-2 4, Manno 0-1 2-2 2, Grose 0-1 0-0 0, Furlong 0-2 0-0 0, Sheldon 0-0 1-2 1, Crane 0-2 0-0 0, Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Archer 0-1 0-0 0, Pretzer 1-3 3-4 5. TOTALS: 15-45 14-16–47.
Heagen 4-12 0-0 8, Kahlig 6-16 1-2 16, Frilling 2-4 1-2 5, Baity 6-11 4-4 18, Kaufman 0-4 0-0 0, Gardner 1-1 0-0 3, Samsel 0-4 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Staley 4-4 1-2 9, Baldwin 0-1 0-0 0, Stern-Tucker 3-4 0-0 6, Jones 1-2 0-1 2, Kohls 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 27-63 7-11–67.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 35-20.
3-Point GOALS: Hillsdale 3-13 (Cooper 0-1, Dezelski 0-2, Smith 1-1, Pritzl 2-5, Miller 0-1, Manno 0-1, Crane 0-1, Jones 0-1); Findlay 6-16 (Heagen 0-1, Kahlig 3-7, Baity 2-2, Kaufman 0-1, Gardner 1-1, Samsel 0-4).
rebounds: Findlay 40 (Frilling 9); Hillsdale 30 (Cooper 9, Dezelski 8).
ASSISTS: Findlay 16 (Samsel, Gardner, Heagen, Kahlig & Baity 3); Hillsdale 10 (Pritzl 4)
STEALS: Findlay 7 (Frilling 3); Hillsdale 3.
BLOCKS: Hillsdale 3, Findlay 1.
TURNOVERS: Hillsdale 14, Findlay 7.
TOTAL FOULS: Findlay 16, Hillsdale 14.
FOULED OUT: None.
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