By Kevin Schrock
For a University of Findlay Men’s Basketball team that has already suffered two injuries to starters this season, they simply will not quit. After losing Austin Gardner early in the season, Alex White also went down with a season ending knee injury during the team’s game against Trevecca Nazerene, Dec. 29. The team fell to Hillsdale College on Jan. 12 in an 80-65 loss. But before that, the team went on a seven game winning streak and the two wins from last week came against the top to teams in the conference.
Thursday night, Jan. 5 the Oilers played host to No. 6 Saginaw Valley State University, who came into the matchup with an 11-1 record and a 4-1 mark in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). It was Martyce Kimbrough who led the charge for the Oilers, scoring 28 points on 9-15 shooting while Tyler Stern-Tucker finished just behind him with 20 points on 9-11 shooting.
Findlay took a 48-40 lead into the half, but a late run brought the cardinals back to within 70-69 with five minutes to play. It was Kimbrough connecting from long range to push the lead back to four, followed by an Elijah Kahlig three that gave the Oilers the cushion they needed to roll to an 88-78 victory.
Two days later the Oilers took on Wayne State University in Croy Gymnasium as well. The Warriors would enter the contest as the only team still holding an undefeated record in the GLIAC but that was about to change. In a defensive battle the Oilers won the game on one of their worst shooting performances of the year. The team shot a mere 6-27 (22.2%) from beyond the arc, including 2-8 marks for sharpshooters Kimbrough and Kahlig.
In a game where the team needed a leader to step up, it was senior Ricardo Smith who took control of the game from the defensive side of the ball, while also contributing 13 points of offense.
“He’s a kid that has overcome adversity his whole life and that what he does,” said Findlay coach Charlie Ernst. “He just keeps getting better every night out and I though in many ways he was the difference tonight.”
The Oilers were forced to play from behind at points in this game. After a pair of Kimbrough free throws gave the Oilers a 31-24 lead, the Cardinals closed the game out on a 10-2 run, highlighted by a Ronald Booth three pointer at the end of the half to give the Warriors a 34-33 lead.
Coming out of the half it was Smith who made the big play to get the Oilers rolling. He came up with a block on Chuck Key and it led to a Taren Sullivan dunk on the other end to give the Oilers back the lead.
The defense for the Oilers proved to be the difference as they never let the game get out of reach.
“Good teams find ways to win all kinds of games,” said Ernst. “Sometimes it takes games like this to realize that.”
The Oilers 22.2 three point percentage was their worst of the season and their 42.6 percentage from the field was their worst in a win all season.
“I’m just really proud of a team that has had to come through adversity twice,” added Ernst. “We just keep grinding and finding ways and the fun thing about this team is that I think we can get a lot better. The upside with this team is very high.”
The Oilers will next be in action on Thursday when they travel to Hillsdale to take on the Chargers.