By ANDY WOLF
A lot of production.
University of Findlay men’s basketball coach Charlie Ernst described his current class of five seniors as such.
Austin Gardner, Drew Garverick, Elijah Kahlig, Martyce Kimbrough and Taren Sullivan will be honored before Saturday’s Great Midwest Athletic Conference season finale against Hillsdale. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.
“When I think of this group, I can’t help but think of the 2009 class because it was a big class,” Ernst said. “It was a very successful class. It was a class that made up a large portion of our production that year.”
All but Garverick, a walk-on, start on an Oilers squad ranked No. 14 in the country and hungry for big things after a Sweet 16 run last season.
Findlay remained second in the latest Division II Midwest regional poll released Wednesday. Kimbough and Sullivan each accomplished 1,000 career points by their junior years. Kahlig is not far behind at 938 points, largely from his 208 3-pointers that rank fifth at UF all-time. Gardner, the starting point guard, is often the glue-guy who sets the tone at both ends of the court. However, Garverick has only seen 56 minutes in 24 games over his entire four-year career in orange and black.
Yet, he’s stuck with the team, unlike many who transfer out after a year or two.
“It’s a blessing to be able to play four years regardless of the circumstances that anyone has been in,” Garverick said. “It’s a great program. We can only say great things about it.
“Speaking for myself among the rest of the seniors, only great things have come of it.”
A standout player in his own right at Marion Pleasant, Garverick mostly had opportunities for Division III or lower-level Division II schools.
The choice wasn’t an easy one, but one he made in large part due to his major of environmental safety and occupational health.
“I know if I went to a bigger school, I wouldn’t have as much of an impact,” Garverick said. “Ultimately I’m glad I chose the University of Findlay because I’ve had an amazing experience and I think anyone else on the team can attest.”
Ernst also cited the pivotal sophomore year of whether walk-ons stick with it or not.
“After your sophomore year it seems like more of a job,” Garverick said. “The luster of being included wears off and now it becomes a lot of work.
“You question whether the sacrifice of time for something that maybe isn’t giving you the on-court benefits it’s giving others is worth it.”
Hillsdale is also veteran-led as all five starters are upperclassmen averaging at least 24 minutes per game.
Three of its starters score in double figures: seniors Ryan Badowski (12.6 ppg) and Stedman Lowry (14.2) and junior Nick Czarnowski (13.0).
Not so long ago, the Chargers trailed the Oilers by only two games in the league standings.
But Hillsdale has lost three of its last five, all on the road, to drop to 19-7 overall and third in the GMAC at 13-6.
They, like most schools, are a different team on the road (5-6) with their offense not carrying over.
The Chargers scoring and shooting percentages have also dipped each month of the season to their current level of 69.8 points a game with a 41.3 shooting percentage in February.
“They are tough to beat regardless of where you play them because of the style they play,” Ernst said. “They’re very efficient on offense. They’re going to slow it down and make it a possession by possession game.”
A slow-natured pace broke out in their first meeting at Hillsdale which Findlay prevailed 59-50 on Jan. 13. A higher scoring game would certainly favor the Oilers. The Chargers are only 1-4 when allowing 75 or more points.
“They play with a lot of togetherness on defense and are led by a very good defending point guard Nate Neveau,” Ernst said. “He kind of sets the tone on defense.”
Findlay’s women’s basketball team (19-6, 16-5 GMAC) faces Hillsdale at 3 p.m. on Saturday in its regular-season finale and will be looking to achieve its first 20-win season since 2012-13.
The Oilers have four seniors on the roster in Haley Horstman, Lynsey Englebrecht, Kendyl Hinton and Emily Molnar.
Horstman (13.4 ppg) and Englebrecht (14.8 ppg) both start, while Hinton made two starts when Englebrecht was sidelined with an injury.
Molnar also sees 10 minutes off the bench per game as a ball handler and, lately, has been a the leader in taking charges.
Findlay sits a game behind Cedarville and Ursuline in the loss column.
The Oilers dropped from ninth to 10th in the regional rankings with the top eight teams getting NCAA bids. The Yellow Jackets and Arrows are sixth and eighth in the region and both have two games remaining.
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