By BRIAN LESTER
The regular season didn’t end as planned for the University of Findlay men’s basketball team.
The Oilers were beaten 86-67 by Hillsdale College in a showdown on the road last Thursday night at Jesse Philips Arena, erasing their hopes of being the No. 1 seed in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament.
HC used a 16-2 run in the second half to turn the tide in the rivalry game, savoring every moment of the run, especially after a dunk that prompted the players to jump around on the bench as if they had just won a title.
While I’m sure those images are burned somewhere into the minds of the Oilers, they aren’t about to hang their heads because of one loss. UF is still the No. 2 seed in the conference tourney and it is focused as ever as it prepares for another tourney run.
It all starts Wednesday night in a 7 p.m. GLIAC tourney quarterfinal against HC at Croy Gymnasium.
“We understand what is in front of us, and our eyes are focused only on Hillsdale,” UF head coach Charlie Ernst said. “We have to play well in this game, and if we win, we’ll worry about the next one.”
This is the time of the year we all love. March Madness is sports at its best. It has no comparisons. And the Oilers have a tradition of success in March. They have won a record seven league tournament titles, including the last two on the road. UF is the only team in GLIAC history to win back-to-back titles on the road.
Senior forward Greg Kahlig, the GLIAC Player of the Year, has a firm grasp on what it takes to be successful in the tournament. He knows that nothing is guaranteed and that focusing on one game at a time means everything at this time of the year.
“We’re focused and we’ve had a good week of practice,” Kahlig said. “This is ring week, and it all comes down to what you do this week. But our focus is on this game because at this point, it’s win or go home.”
The Oilers are capable of winning the tournament, even if they will have to do it on the road. They have the talent to get the job done, the ability to execute a game plan to perfection. It’s just a matter of going out and getting it done.
The Chargers are the first hurdle on that path and the Oilers understand it will take their best effort to come out on top and punch a ticket to the final four of the GLIAC tourney this weekend. Lake Superior State is the top seed and will host the final four if it wins on Wednesday night.
“We know we have to come out and play extra hard and be extra motivated to win this one,” Kahlig said. “We’ll be ready to go.”
Follow me on Twitter: @BLester1993.