By ANDY WOLF
Aaron Overhiser’s first collegiate start was certainly one to remember.
The 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman made a slew of key plays down the stretch as the University of Findlay men’s basketball team had to play catchup Saturday against Lake Erie.
His contributions kept the Oilers alive and allowed Taren Sullivan to hit the go-ahead bucket with 12 seconds remaining to silence a pesky Lake Erie team 81-79 for a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win at Croy Gymnasium.
“It was kind of an eye-opener for me,” Overhiser said. “I’ve never really been on the bench for (starting lineup) announcements. It was nice to see it from a whole different point of view and just play. Once you start playing, all the nerves go away.
“We’ve gone through a lot of adversity this year, had a lot of guys having to step up.”
Sullivan finished with game highs of 22 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals for the Oilers (14-4, 8-3 GLIAC).
Overhiser was starting in place of 6-foot-8 senior Tyler Stern-Tucker, who reinjured a shoulder in Thursday’s win over Ohio Dominican.
Overhiser turned in a line of eight points, nine rebounds (four offensive), two assists, a steal and two blocks in a career-high 28 minutes.
His bucket off an inbounds pass with the shot-clock winding down pulled UF to within 76-74 just under the 3-minute mark.
On defense, Overhiser then blocked a Brogan Scott shot with two hands and collected the loose rebound.
After Trey Smith buried a 3-pointer to put UF up 77-76, Overhiser stood tall in the paint again, this time drawing a charge on Mitch Loomis’ drive with 2:10 remaining.
“He’s gotten his feet wet throughout the year but there’s a difference in getting in that role when the team’s counting on you,” UF coach Charlie Ernst said of Overhiser. “I could probably pick out five plays he made in the last five minutes of the game.
“It was a big day for Aaron, big day for our team from the standpoint that he stepped up in a tough moment.”
The Storm called timeout to stall momentum but Overhiser ignited Croy with a two-handed dunk down the lane, assisted by Sullivan.
But as they had all game long, Lake Erie knocked down another clutch 3-pointer to tie the game 79-all with 37 seconds to go.
That set up Sullivan to score the last points of the game from the left block as Elijah Kahlig inbounded to him from in front of the UF bench.
The Oilers survived a missed jump shot by Gabe Kynard and Sullivan missed two free throws in the final five seconds to hang on for the win.
Martyce Kimbrough added 20 points for UF while Kahlig had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Sean Howard backed the Storm (3-17, 2-10) with 19 points while Kynard and Scott each went for 17.
A youthful, yet fearless Lake Erie, shot lights out in the first half, making 8 of 15 tries from 3-point range as the teams played to a 39-39 halftime score.
The Storm finished 11 of 24 from beyond the arc.
Guiding the Storm is first-year head coach and former UF assistant Kyle Conley.
Conley and Ernst shared the UF sidelines as assistants under Ron Niekamp for four seasons before Conley moved on to spend the previous seven seasons as a Lake Erie assistant.
“Without a doubt he’s my closest friend of any of the coaches in this league,” Ernst said. “I just told him he’s doing a really good job with a young team.”
Conley shared the same sentiments.
“I’m trying not to get choked up because I love Charlie Ernst and I love that man,” Conley said. “The opportunity to compete against him as a head coach while he’s a head coach, a lot has changed in 10 years. I couldn’t have more respect for him, his staff and his team.”
LAKE ERIE (3-17, 2-10 GLIAC)
Wells 3-7 0-0 6, Humphrey 1-1 0-0 2, Kynard 7-11 0-0 17, Howard 7-14 3-3 19, Scott 7-15 1-2 17, James 2-3 0-0 6, Michael 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, Middendorf 3-4 0-0 8, Loomis 1-1 2-3 4. TOTALS: 31-56 6-8 — 79.
FINDLAY (14-4, 8-3 GLIAC)
Sullivan 10-16 1-3 22, Overhiser 3-4 2-4 8, R. Smith 0-4 4-4 4, Kimbrough 7-23 4-4 20, Kahlig 4-12 3-4 12, Singleton 2-4 1-1 5, George 2-3 0-0 5, Ashley 0-0 0-0 0, T. Smith 2-2 0-0 5. TOTALS: 30-69 15-20 — 81.
HALFTIME: 39-39 tie.
3-POINT GOALS: Lake Erie 11-24 (Kynard 3-5, James 2-3, Middendorf 2-3, Scott 2-5, Howard 2-6, Wells 0-2); Findlay 6-22 (Kimbrough 2-10, Sullivan 1-2, George 1-1, Smith 1-1, Kahlig 1-8).
REBOUNDS: Lake Erie 32 (Scott 8); Findlay 37 (Sullivan 11).
ASSISTS: Lake Erie 14 (Scott 4); Findlay 18 (Sullivan 5).
STEALS: Lake Erie 5; Findlay 10 (Sullivan 3).
BLOCKS: Lake Erie 3; Findlay 4 (Overhiser 2).
TURNOVERS: Lake Erie 17, Findlay 9.
TOTAL FOULS: Lake Erie 18, Findlay 9.
FOULED OUT: None.
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