By BRIAN LESTER
Jake Heagen was ready to make a big play and capitalized on the opportunity as he took the in-bounds pass and threw down a dunk early in the first half.
It was the first basket of the night for the University of Findlay junior forward, energizing himself and the crowd of 715, and the start of an impressive performance.
Heagen went on to carve up Ohio Dominican for a career-high 28 points and the Oilers rolled to another big win at home, trouncing the Panthers 91-71 Thursday night at Croy Gymnasium.
How good was Heagen?
He didn’t miss on five shots from beyond the arc and was 10-of-12 overall from the field.
Add in four rebounds, three assists and no turnovers to the stat line and what you have is a stellar effort that helped UF win its third consecutive game and keep pace in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship race.
“It was a real big game and I was fortunate to play well,” Heagen said. “When you play hard, good things happen. I hit some shots and put in a lot of hard work.The most important thing is we were successful as a team.”
Heagen’s dunk put the Oilers (16-4, 12-4 GLIAC) in front 10-7. Moments later, he knocked down a 3-pointer for a 15-10 advantage.
He hit two more treys in the opening half, the last giving the Oilers a 41-26 lead with 4:20 to go. UF went into halftime with a 47-32 lead.
“The dunk got me going and then the three’s started going in,” Heagen said. “When shots fall, you get into a rhythm. My teammates found me open and I made plays.”
Heagen is a tough matchup for opponents because of his slashing ability, but he is often given center stage because of the emphasis opponents have to put on senior preseason All-American forward Greg Kahlig.
On this night, Kahlig still went off, torching the Panthers for 28 points. He hit back-to-back treys to open the game for a 6-0 lead and also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists. He now has 1,585 points and is 11th on the all-time scoring list.
“Teams fumble around with those matchups every game,” UF head coach Charlie Ernst said. “They have to decide who to put on Jake and who to put on Greg. They are two different players. When Jake shoots that well from the 3-point line, he is really tough to stop.”
The Oilers were 8 of 19 from beyond the arc and shot 57.1 percent (36 of 63) overall from the field. And while the Oilers are a dangerous team from the outside, Ernst wanted his team to scale back on the 3-point attempts in the second half.
“We relied on the 3-point shot too much in the first half, and that is when you get in trouble as a team. The 3-point line can be a fickle friend,” Ernst said. “We have to be balanced as an offense, score off the dribble, get to the line, find different ways to score. We are at our best when we do that.”
The Panthers (5-15, 3-13) tried to hang around and closed the gap to 55-44 when Reece Dils nailed a trey with 15:56 to play.
Heagen responded with a trey of his own before scoring on a strong drive to the basket. Back-to-back layups by John Staley stretched the UF advantage to 65-46 with 11:48 remaining.
ODU shot 41.9 percent (26-of-62) from the field and went 13 of 24 from the line. Jesse Ward led the way as he hit five treys and scored 17 points.
“We didn’t defend the 3-point line very well,” Ernst said. “It’s something we need to address. The last two teams have combined to go 24 of 44 from the 3-point line against us. That isn’t going to get it done.”
Still, any win in the rugged GLIAC is a good win, especially at home at a point in the season where the league title race is heating up. UF entered the night a half game behind Walsh for first place in the South Division.
“All in all, it was a good win,” Ernst said. “Ohio Dominican is playing better. They played hard and it’s tough to beat a team by 20 twice in the same season. I’m happy about that.”
Ernst is also pleased with the effort by his bench, which produced 24 points.
Quaran Jones led the way as he scored a career-high 12 points and grabbed three rebounds. He also tallied a steal in 14 minutes of work.
Jones said he’s put in a lot of time to improve his game. It showed against the Panthers.
“I do what I can with the minutes I get and play my hardest,” Jones said. “I give a lot of credit to coach (Dan) Shardo because he’s worked a lot with me and has critiqued my game to make me a better player.”
UF has only two regular-season home games remaining, the first coming on Saturday in a 3 p.m. game against rival Tiffin (8-12, 4-11).
The Oilers have all the motivation they need for this game as the Dragons earned a stunning 57-55 win at Croy last season.
The loss cut deep as it cost the Oilers home-court advantage in the GLIAC tournament.
Ernst reminded his players twice about the loss Thursday and his players took the words to heart.
“Everyone is going to give you their best shot, and we have a big game against Tiffin,” Heagen said. “We know they will play tough. We have to be ready to step up to the challenge.”
OHIO DOMINICAN (5-15, 3-13 GLIAC)
Weaver 2-4 2-2 7, Dils 2-6 0-0 6, Carr 0-0 0-0 0, Nelson 5-13 2-2 13, Ward 6-10 0-0 17, Dominique 0-0 0-0 0, Decker 1-1 0-0 3, Stennis 3-8 0-0 9, Minch 4-12 2-2 10, Leach 1-3 0-0 2, Kellum 2-5 0-0 4, Cowgill 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 26-62 6-6 –71.
FINDLAY (16-4, 12-4 GLIAC)
Heagen 10-12 3-4 28, Kahlig 10-17 6-7 28, Frilling 2-4 0-0 4, Baity 2-5 0-0 4, Kaufman 1-4 0-0 3, Gardner 1-2 0-0 2, Smith 1-1 0-0 2, Staley 2-3 0-0 4, Stern-Tucker 2-3 0-0 4, Jones 5-9, 2-3 12, Samsel 0-1 0-0 0, Baldwin 0-1 0-0 0, Kohls 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 36-63 11-14–91.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 47-32.
3-Point GOALS: Ohio Dominican 13-24 (Ward 5-8, Stennis 3-5, Dils 2-4, Weaver 1-1, Decker 1-1, Nelson 1-2, Minch 0-2, Leach 0-1) Findlay 8-19 (Heagen 5-5, Kahlig 2-6, Kaufman 1-4, Samsel 0-1, Kohls 0-1, Baity 0-2).
rebounds: Ohio Dominican 26 (Ward & Kellum 6); Findlay 39 (Kahlig & Kaufman 7).
ASSISTS: Ohio Dominican 15 (Nelson 9); Findlay 22 (Kahlig 5).
STEALS: Ohio Dominican 6, Findlay 6.
BLOCKS: Ohio Dominican 1, Findlay 1
TURNOVERS: Ohio Dominican 9, Findlay 9
TOTAL FOULS: Ohio Dominican 14, Findlay 8
FOULED OUT: None.
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