By ANDY WOLF
The “shooter” label has never bothered Elijah Kahlig.
It’s something he’s had all his life and earned quickly in his freshman season with the University of Findlay men’s basketball team.
Now a sophomore in a bench role, as soon as Kahlig enters the court most teams make a verbal mention of “shooter” as he assumes his spot on the perimeter.
“When you get labeled as a shooter, it kind of makes you want to improve your game more,” Kahlig said. “Yes you can shoot it, but you also want to be known for taking it off the dribble, getting to the free-throw line.
“It motivates you to not lose the label because you still want to have it but you also want be known as more than just a shooter.”
Kahlig averages 4.7 points and 1.3 rebounds in 14.2 minutes off the bench. He’s fourth on the team with 27 3-pointers.
He’s also one of just six Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference players shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc while having started 10 or fewer games.
As a freshman, Kahlig was 18th in the GLIAC with 47 3-pointers and averaged 7.7 points.
This year’s UF squad (17-7, 14-5 GLIAC) is much deeper than last, limiting Kahlig’s opportunities.
“He had great freshman year and I think he’s had a good sophomore year,” UF coach Charlie Ernst said. “To be a true team it involves a lot of sacrifice. Certainly Elijah has had to sacrifice as much as anyone.
“It’s going to prep him well to have a great last two years here. He’s such a good player that he could go off at anytime.”
With three games remaining, UF trails Ashland (21-4, 15-4) by a game in the GLIAC South Division race.
The Oilers, who are ranked ninth in the initial Midwest regional rankings which were released Wednesday, are coming off a pair of road losses to the No. 25 Eagles (67-64) and Lake Erie (81-67 in overtime). The loss to Ashland snapped a 12-game winning streak.
“We’ve just got to get better,” Kahlig said. “We were very confident during that win streak. Two losses kind of brought us back to real life. It shows us we’ve got to get after it each and every day in practice.”
On Thursday, UF travels to Walsh (12-11, 10-9) for a 7:30 p.m. conference clash on the Cavaliers’ senior night at Alumni Arena in North Canton.
The Oilers took the first meeting 79-57 at Croy Gymnasium, outscoring the Cavaliers 46-26 in the second half.
“I’ve figured out because of the stature and the reputation of our program, usually we get everyone’s best shot,” Ernst said. “I’m sure our seniors (Dylan Kaufman and John Staley) will give a little extra oomph on Saturday when we have our senior day (vs. Malone).”
The Cavaliers have had their share of ups and downs so far, pairing two four-game win streaks with two three-game losing streaks.
In their wins, they’ve shot 49.9 percent. In their losses, only 39 percent.
“They’re one of the most dangerous teams in the conference offensively,” Ernst said. “Certainly they have some of the best individual talent in the GLIAC too.
“When they get hot, it’s hard to defend them. Once they get it started, you can defend them well and they keep scoring regardless.”
Senior guard Jesse Hardin Jr. is fourth in the GLIAC at 19.8 ppg in a league-best 38.2 minutes per game. He also leads all guards in the league with 6.9 rpg.
Juniors Trey Fletcher and Zac Carter average 18.1 and 15.8 ppg respectively.
For the Oilers, John Staley (10.8 ppg) is leading the GLIAC in shooting at 72.1 percent. Dylan Kaufman has supplied 8.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 1.9 apg in his final season. He needs nine points to become the 44th UF player to reach the 1,000-point mark. The women’s team (15-10, 10-9) will also be in action Thursday against Walsh (17-7, 14-5), with tipoff slated for 5:30 p.m.
The next win for UF will eclipse its win total from last season where they finished 15-11.
On Jan. 28, the Cavaliers outlasted the Oilers in double overtime 76-75 at Croy Gymnasium.
Kelsey Funderbergh (14.4 ppg) led four Walsh players in double figures with 16 points.
Margaret Wuebker led the Oilers with 18 points while Bonar added 16 points.
Bonar is two 3-pointers away from breaking her own record of 3-pointers made in a season (71).
Sophomore Lynsey Englebrecht has hit 8 of 10 from 3-point in her last three games, extending her league-best percentage to 55 percent.