By BRIAN LESTER
Greg Kahlig stood at the top of the 3-point line and thought about his next move.
He motioned for a moment as if he was going to drive to the basket, but then found space to drill a 3-pointer.
It was a gutsy decision in a tight situation Monday as the University of Findlay men’s basketball team trailed Hillsdale by two points with 1:21 to go in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference battle between two South Division rivals.
The basket gave the Oilers the lead and was key to a 74-71 UF victory over the Chargers at Croy Gymnasium.
“I was trying to read the way he was defending me,” Kahlig said. “He was defending me to drive, but I got a step on him and he backed up enough where I was able to get the shot off. Thankfully, it went in.”
UF never looked back, and Kahlig was able to force Hilldale’s Tim Dezelski to take a tough 3-point shot in the closing seconds that bounced off the rim.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” Kahlig said. “We knew they had a chance to tie it. I just tried to play good defense and make him take a tough shot. He’s a good shooter, but fortunately he missed that one.”
Kahlig finished with 29 points, knocking down three treys along the way. He also had four rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
Kahlig seemed to be at his best as the pressure rose in a game the Oilers (15-4, 11-4 GLIAC) had to win to keep pace in the race for a conference championship.
His trey with 6:08 remaining gave UF a 60-58 lead and his second long-distance shot down the stretch broke a 60-60 tie.
He also hit two free throws, made a layup and knocked down a short jumper in the lane as he scored 15 points in the final six-plus minutes of action.
None of it surprised UF head coach Charlie Ernst.
“There are very few players who will take the kind of shots he takes under that kind of pressure,” Ernst said. “He has nerves of steel and believes every shot he takes is going in, and most of them did. But obviously he is a senior and he wanted this game bad.”
Nothing came easy against the Chargers (13-6, 9-6 GLIAC), who opened the game with a 16-9 run and hung around throughout with solid 3-point shooting. The Chargers drilled 11 treys and shot 48.1 percent (26 of 54) overall.
Dezelski paved the way with 17 points, hurting UF both inside and outside, while Kyle Cooper scored 15 points.
Brandon Pritzl added 14 points, but when the Chargers needed a shot the most, they couldn’t get one. Down 74-71 after two big free throws by Alphonso Baity, Zach Miller missed an open 3-pointer with 19 seconds remaining.
Dylan Kaufman, who only scored eight points but racked up three steals, said the team effort the Oilers gave on defense when it mattered most was key to nailing down a second consecutive win.
“We have faith in our defense. We take pride in it,” Kaufman said. “If all five of us are giving effort and playing our roles, that is when we are at our best on defense.”
The Oilers led 36-35 at halftime and seemed to be on their way to taking control when a layup by Mark Frilling, a jumper in the lane by Baity and a layup and free throw by Kaufman put the Oilers in front 49-43.
The Chargers battled back, though, and made sure this game was a fight to the finish. Dezelski’s 3-pointer gave HC a 58-55 lead with 7:30 left in the game.
“It was a rugged, rough and tumble game that was not only typical of this conference, but typical of this rivalry,” Ernst said. “This was the third game in five days for both teams, and you saw two tired teams out there tonight. But we found a way to win, and we continue to get better at finding a way.”
Baity scored 19 points for the Oilers, who shot 49.1 percent (26 of 53) from the floor. Jake Heagen added 13 points for UF, which remains a half game behind first-place Walsh in the division.
Yet, on a night when the lead changed hands nine times and the score was tied 11 times, the Oilers dug deep and prevailed in a game they could have just as easily stumbled in.
For UF, which returns to action Thursday against Ohio Dominican (5-14, 3-12) in an 8 p.m. game at Croy Gymnasium, the win over the Chargers is a confidence booster.
“We knew it was going to be a dog fight, and I’m proud of us for being able to make enough plays to win,” Kahlig said. “That is what you have to do in tough GLIAC games. It’s big for our confidence.”
HILLSDALE (13-6, 9-6 GLIAC)
Grose 1-1–3, Cooper 6-2–15, Dezelski 7-1–17, C. Smith 1-1–3, Pritzl 5-0–14, Nelson 3-2–9, Miller 1-1–4, Manno 2-0–6, R. Smith 0-0–0, Pretzer 0-0–0. TOTALS: 26-54 8-15 — 71.
FINDLAY (15-4, 11-4 GLIAC)
Heagen 5-2–13, Kahlig 10-6–29, Frilling 2-0–4, Baity 6-6–19, Kaufman 3-2–8, Gardner 0-0–0, Samsel 0-0–0, Staley 0-0–0, Jones 0-1″”1. TOTALS: 26-53 17-26 — 74.
3-Point GOALS: Hillsdale 11-20 (Pritzl 4, Manno & Dezelski 2, Cooper, Nelson & Miller); Findlay 5-22 (Kahlig 3, Heagen & Baity).
rebounds: Hillsdale 33 (Pritzl 9); Findlay 31 (Filling 6).
ASSISTS: Hillsdale 16 (Pritzl); Findlay 10 (Kahlig 4).
STEALS: Hillsdale 7 (Dezelski 4); Findlay 8 (Kaufman 3).
BLOCKS: Hillsdale 3 (Cooper, Dezelski & Nelson); Findlay 10 (Kahlig 4).
TURNOVERS: Hillsdale 15; Findlay 11.
TOTAL FOULS: Hillsdale 23; Findlay 12.
FOULED OUT: None.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 36-35.
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