By BRIAN LESTER
It took a little more than talent for the University of Findlay men’s basketball team to hold off Tiffin on Saturday afternoon at Croy Gymnasium.
It took toughness.
In a game the Oilers easily could have lost as the Dragons came to town as the very definition of a team with nothing to lose, they ended up showing the toughness you need to be a contender in the rugged and competitive Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Greg Kahlig and Jake Heagen both hit big-time shots down the stretch and the Oilers clamped down on defense in the final four-plus minutes to secure a hard-fought 71-64 win that stretched the UF win streak to four games.
“Give our guys credit. It took a lot of toughness to win this game,” UF head coach Charlie Ernst said. “We had a lot of guys make a lot of tough plays. It would have been real easy to crawl in a hole and look stiff and nervous.”
Toughness doesn’t show up in a box score. It comes from within, and the teams that thrive at this time of the year have the toughness trait.
UF wasn’t nearly as tough against the Dragons last season at Croy and were punched in the mouth in a 57-55 loss.
This time, the Oilers brought their best effort and were ready to go in a game they knew would be a fight to the finish against a Tiffin team that was much better than its sub-.500 record indicates.
“We wanted this one,” senior forward Greg Kahlig said. “We had to come out with intensity because we knew they were going to bring it. And they did. It was a good effort by us to hold on for the victory.”
Kahlig scored 24 points in the victory, with 22 coming in the second half, and ice water was running through his veins when he nailed two big 3-pointers down the stretch. Jake Heagen hit a big-time money shot as well, knocking down a long jumper as the final seconds of the shot clock ticked away.
Heagen finished with 15 points.
The Oilers now have to take their act on the road, and they need to make sure the toughness factor comes with them. They are going to need it during a final run to the regular-season finish line that features four road games over the next 16 days. It all starts Thursday night with a visit to Kates Gymnasium when the Oilers battle bitter rival Ashland.
A lot is on the line during the stretch, both in the GLIAC and in the Midwest Region.
The focus right now is on the Eagles.
“We have to be ready because it’s always tough playing at Ashland,” Kahlig said. “We have to come out with a lot of intensity because we know they will do the same. It’s another big game.”
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