THE UNIVERSITY OF FINDLAY’S Trey Smith, left, is fouled by Walsh’s Darryl Straughter as he drives to the basket, during Saturday’s Great Midwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament final at Croy Gymnasium. The Oilers dropped a 56-52 decision to the Cavaliers in overtime. (photo by Matthias Leguire)

By ANDY WOLF

STAFF WRITER

The two hottest Great Midwest Athletic Conference teams battled through one of the coldest offensive outings into overtime without reaching 50 points.

Once there, Walsh scored the final six points of the game to outlast the University of Findlay 56-52 in overtime to capture the GMAC men’s basketball tournament crown Saturday at Croy Gymnasium.

“It was a war,” UF coach Charlie Ernst said. “It was a physical game. Both teams were clearly a little fatigued, but we both had tough semifinals.

“The offenses weren’t flowing freely and easily because there’s a lot of emotion spent on both ends, both in their locker room and our locker room last night.

“We were trying to play on adrenaline. Give Walsh a lot of credit.”

Walsh (23-7) earned its first GMAC tournament title in two seasons as a league member and first NCAA Division II tournament berth.

The Cavaliers were not listed in the last Midwest Regional rankings.

“It’s unreal,” Walsh junior Sterling Christy said. “Our season was on the line. We played like it today. We grinded it out.”

Christy spearheaded Walsh’s strong defensive outing with a near triple-double of 10 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks.

“I’ve always been a shot-blocker throughout the year,” Christy said. “I was a little more aggressive since they were going to the hole a lot.”

Ernst cited Christy’s defensive performance as good of an effort he’s seen “in a game of this magnitude.

“Probably won them the game, to be honest,” he said.

Alex White and Trey Smith each scored 13 points for the Oilers (27-4) — ranked No. 6 nationally and No. 3 in the region.

Findlay entered on a 13-game win streak while Walsh boasted a 12-game streak. Neither team had lost since late January.

Both also had to win down-to-the-wire semifinal games the night before. The early effects of fatigue showed.

But when it mattered most down the stretch, Walsh made all the plays in the final two minutes of overtime.

UF’s Anthony Masterlasco (11 points) had put the Oilers back ahead by scoring off a drive.

Down at the other end, Walsh’s Caleb Canter dished to Darryl Straughter at the right wing, immediately drawing a double-team by the Oilers.

Straughter, 1 of 11 shooting from 3-point range, kicked back to Canter in the right corner who buried an off-balance trey for Walsh’s first overtime lead.

Ernst noted his team got the one player for Walsh shooting that they wanted, but gave Canter credit for hitting the tough shot. Canter was just 8 of 19 from 3-point range all season.

“A lot of times that situation happens, kick to Caleb and there he is, wide open, but he’s not a 3-point shooter,” Walsh coach Jeff Young said. “For him to step up and knock one down in that situation, that doesn’t surprise me.”

The Oilers got three looks in the paint in the final minute, but none of the shots fell.

Masterlasco’s attempt late in the shot clock went over the rim and Tommy Schmock’s putback missed, too.

After a defensive stop, Smith drove to the rim but couldn’t get his close-range finish to fall and Walsh rebounded with 13.7 seconds left.

Findlay looked to foul as Walsh inbounded from half court, but ended up trying to tie up J.T. Shumate at the top of the key.

It nearly worked, though. Shumate dished to a cutting Canter open down the right baseline, who got the bucket and the foul with 6 seconds to go as Walsh’s bench erupted.

Canter’s and-one free throw put the final nail in UF’s coffin.

Findlay shot a season-worst 30 percent (21 of 70) overall, including 5 of 23 from downtown.

The cold shooting comes in stark contrast of making a season-high 16 3-pointers in Friday’s 80-77 semifinal win over Cedarville.

“We thought we had to hold Findlay under 60 points or 65 to have a chance to win,” Young said.

Walsh didn’t shoot much better at 35.5 percent (22 of 62), 5 of 19 from 3.

Shumate scored a team-high 16 points. Straughter 14 points while Canter had 11.

WALSH (23-7)

Christy 5-6 0-0 10, Canter 3-6 3-3 11, Shumate 6-23 3-5 16, D. Straughter 6-16 1-1 14, Bogan 1-5 2-2 5, Wess 0-2 0-0 0, Mokros 1-3 0-1 2, Wilkins 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 22-62 9-12 58.

FINDLAY (27-4)

Masterlasco 5-12 0-0 11, Overhiser 3-8 0-1 6, White 5-17 3-4 13, Smith 4-12 2-2 13, Schmock 1-8 0-0 3, George 2-7 0-1 4, E. Linder 0-3 0-0 0, Stover 1-2 0-0 2. TOTALS: 21-70 5-8 52.

HALFTIME: Walsh 28-22.

3-Point GOALS: Walsh 5-29 (Canter 2-4, Shumate 1-7, Straughter 1-11, Bogan 1-5, Wess 0-1, Mokros 0-1); Findlay 5-23 (Masterlasco 1-2, Overhiser 0-1, White 0-4, Smith 3-6, Schmock 1-6, George 0-3, C. Linder 0-1).

rebounds: Walsh 50 (Christy 13); Findlay 40 (Schmock 8). ASSISTS: Walsh 5 (Canter 2); Findlay 10 (Masterlasco) 4). STEALS: Walsh 2; Findlay 4 (Schmock 2). BLOCKS: Walsh 11 (Christy 9); Findlay 5 (White 3).

TURNOVERS: Walsh 12, Findlay 5. TOTAL FOULS: Walsh 14, Findlay 15. FOULED OUT: Findlay (Masterlasco).

Wolf, 419-427-8496

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