By BRIAN LESTER
Season by season goes by, players come and go, the challenges vary from year to year, but one thing never changes.
The University of Findlay men’s basketball team consistently marches to the same beat.
A winning beat.
It was business as usual again on Saturday afternoon at Croy Gymnasium. Behind another jaw-dropping performance from senior preseason All-American forward Greg Kahlig — he finished with 39 points — the Oilers took care of Malone 79-63 in front of an energized, solid-out crowd.
It was the 21st win of the year for the Oilers and assured them of at least a share of of their 12th Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference South Division title in program history.
The win also keeps the Oilers in contention for the overall regular-season GLIAC title and puts them one step closer to a 12th NCAA Division II tournament bid.
For a lot of programs, success comes and goes. Hiccups happen. But UF hasn’t had to worry about success bouncing in and out of its life from time time time.
The last time UF had a losing season, Ronald Reagan was in office. It was 1982. For those counting at home, that is a run of 32 consecutive winning seasons, the last 13 all consisting of 20 or more wins.
The only time UF hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since being eligible for postseason play after the step up from NAIA was in 2011 when the committee decided to screw over an Oilers team that was 24-4.
I’m willing to bet very few programs at any level of college basktball can say they have been that consistent.
A lot of it has to do with stability at the top. Head coach Charlie Ernst is only the fourth coach the program has had since 1947.
The success also has to do with the players being willing to work together and often sacrifice personal stats for the good of the team.
Yes, Kahlig has sort of stolen the spotlight as of late, scoring 121 points in the last three games, but even he is as unselfish as can be.
“It’s all about winning. If the points come, they come. If they don’t, they don’t. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting the win and making the extra plays on offense and defense that help our team win.”
The Oilers seemed to be in danger of falling short of a division title a few weeks ago after a tough 81-61 loss to Walsh at home.
Since then, they have found ways to get the job done, at home and on the road. And that is because the Oilers are always working to improve. Complacency is not an option.
“Our first goal is always to win the South, and I told the guys a few weeks ago we didn’t have much margin for error,” Ernst said. “We pretty much have to win every night out, and guess what? We’ve won eight in a row. We’ve done it in tough environments on the road and we’ve done it at home. I’m proud of this team.”
The next test comes Thursday night on the road against rival Hillsdale. An outright division title will be on the line as will the potential to earn home-court throughout the GLIAC tournament if Lake Superior State stumbles in Detroit against Wayne State.
The Oilers, though, are only focused on themselves. Senior forwrad Mark Frilling will tell you as much.
“Sometimes we look at what other teams are doing, but we have to take care of our business,” Frilling said. “We took care of it today, and we need to do it again Thursday. However the cards play out from there, we’ll take it. It’s all about taking it one step at a time.”
The beat goes on, and so do the Oilers.
Follow me on Twitter: @BLester1993.