By ANDY WOLF
It only took two deflating plays by the University of Findlay men’s basketball team to take the wind out of Cedarville University’s sails in crunch time.
They happened in a matter of seconds and helped the Oilers put the finishing touches on an 83-74 Great Midwest Athletic Conference victory on Thursday at Niekamp Arena.
The Oilers (9-5, 4-1 GMAC) never trailed in the second half but got one last push by the Yellow Jackets (8-7, 4-2) via a 6-0 spurt to pull them within 72-67 at the three-minute mark.
Needing a score, UF’s Aaron Overhiser missed a tough look inside but the ball rolled out of traffic to Anthony Masterlasco on the right wing for the offensive board.
Masterlasco quickly found Nathan Bruns wide open inside to score and halt the run before the Yellow Jackets knew what hit them.
Seconds later down at the other end, Ethan Linder eyed a pass in the back court, leapt high for a deflection before corralling the ball and firing long across court to Masterlasco ahead of the defense.
Masterlasco finished his stride with a two-handed dunk to send the crowd in a frenzy with two minutes remaining.
“(Head) coach (Charlie) Ernst had us in the right spot at the right time to make that play,” said Linder, who totaled 18 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals. “More than anything, it helped us get momentum. We had a good run there and it kind of topped it off.”
To Ernst, it might’ve been the biggest play.
“I’m always encouraging Ethan to be more aggressive on defense,” Ernst said of his sophomore guard. “He’s got great length. Sometimes he underestimates his own athleticism on defense.
“That’s a work in progress but on that particular play, he did get aggressive.”
Linder’s individual play put a stamp on an overall dominating second-half defensive effort by the Oilers.
Findlay led 44-38 at halftime, with both teams shooting 50 percent.
However, the Oilers tightened up in the second half, contested nearly every shot and made nothing easy for the Yellow Jackets, who scored mostly in second chance or in the fast break.
Cedarville made just 15 of 39 overall in the second half, 2 of 16 from 3-point range, and finished at 43.7 percent (31 of 71).
“Holding that team to 74 is a pretty good night,” Ernst said. “The biggest decision we had at halftime was how we were going to defend their high-ball screens because they put shooters, length and guys that can do a bit off the dribble.”
Ernst decided at halftime they were willing to sacrifice a few paint mismatches on switches in order to keep Cedarville leading scorer Branden Maughmer out of the lane.
Maughmer ended up with 22 points, but missed all five 3-point attempts and was 10 of 23 from the floor.
Quinton Green added 15 points for the Yellow Jackets.
The Oilers, with a two-big rotation of Overhiser and Bruns, held Cedarville’s efficient scoring forward tandem of Conner TenHove and Kollin Van Horn to just seven total points, six by TenHove, and a combined 3 for 13 from the floor.
“Those two guys are very good players and we have a lot of respect for those players,” Ernst said. “We talked a lot about post defense this week. Lots is talked about with their guards (Maughmer/Green).”
Masterlasco (Liberty-Benton) added 17 points for the Oilers.
Tommy Schmock put in 10 points, four rebounds, seven assists and two steals while Overhiser finished with 10 points.
Findlay will ride a five-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s 3 p.m. league contest at Tiffin (7-9, 1-5).
Last year, the Oilers fell behind by 22 points in the first half and came back for a 82-75 win to stun their rivals.
“We know it’s a really big game for us,” Linder said. “We want to make it really important in practice; we can’t overlook that team.
“… It almost felt like we were beat in the first half (last year). (The comeback) is trusting your teammates, trusting your game plan and going out and executing it.”
CEDARVILLE (8-7, 4-2 GMAC)
TenHove 3-9 0-0 6, Van Horn 0-4 1-2 1, Parker 3-5 0-0 8, Maughmer 10-23 2-2 22, Green 6-14 2-2 15, Speelman 5-11 0-0 12, Drees 4-5 0-0 10, McKeeman 0-0 0-0 0, Mantis 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 31-71 5-6 — 74.
FINDLAY (9-5, 4-1 GMAC)
Masterlasco 7-10 1-1 17, Stover 3-4 2-2 8, Overhiser 4-10 2-4 10, Schmock 4-8 0-3 10, Linder 5-10 7-8 18, George 1-1 0-0 3, Bruns 3-6 2-2 8, Edmonds 1-4 0-0 3, Emrick 2-5 0-0 4, Gray 0-1 2-2 2. TOTALS: 30-59 16-22 — 83.
3-Point GOALS: Cedarville 7-23 (TenHove 0-1, Parker 2-3, Maughmer 0-5, Green 1-7, Speelman 2-5, Drees 2-2); Findlay 7-20 (Masterlasco 2-3, Overhiser 0-3, Schmock 2-5, Linder 1-2, George 1-1, Bruns 0-1, Edmonds 1-4, Emrick 0-1).
rebounds: Cedarville 42 (TenHove & Green 8); Findlay 33 (Overhiser 7).
ASSISTS: Cedarville 17 (Maughmer 6); Findlay 23 (Schmock 7).
STEALS: Cedarville 4 (Maughmer 3); Findlay 7 (Stover, Schmock & Linder 2).
BLOCKS: Cedarville 4 (Maughmer 2); Findlay 1 (George 1).
TURNOVERS: Cedarville 12; Findlay 7.
TOTAL FOULS: Cedarville 18; Findlay 10.
FOULED OUT: Cedarville (Drees); Findlay (none).
HALFTIME: Findlay, 44-38.