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Basketball: Kahlig, Stegmaier quietly having strong seasons for men, women

By ANDY WOLF

STAFF WRITER

The University of Findlay men’s and women’s basketball teams are talented enough offensively that no starter should really fall under the radar of any opposing squad.

Yet it still happens.

Understandably so as the flashy, go-to scorers get more of the defensive attention.

Stop the players who can burn you the worst, it’s a simple defensive ideaology.

The Oilers possess plenty on either team: Martyce Kimbrough, Taren Sullivan, Haley Horstman, Anna Hintz and Lynsey Englebrecht, to name a few.

But in any sense, the third or fourth scoring option is just as vital as the first or second.

Teams often make your secondary options beat you.

Enter Elijah Kahlig for the men and Jenna Stegmaier for the women.

They’re two very different scorers and two very different players as their contributions go beyond their ability to score.

“If you look at what one player brings to the table, Jenna is not too far behind Haley,” UF coach Jim Wiedie said. “She is arguably our smartest defender; (she) can cover multiple positions.

“She’s a very good rebounder, extremely active, especially the offensive boards.”

Kahlig and Stegmaier average 9.6 and 9.2 points, respectively, ranking them third and fourth on their teams.

Both are trending upwards and getting stronger as the season goes on.

The sharpshooting Kahlig (6-3 senior) was considerably quiet against Malone last Thursday, only attempting one 3-pointer.

He came back in a big way Saturday by draining three 3-pointers en route to a 14-point effort and help UF beat Walsh 72-60.

“That sort of epitomizes his year,” UF men’s coach Charlie Ernst said. “I say that as a compliment where he doesn’t allow a bad game or a bad shooting night or really a night where he doesn’t get many shots to impact his approach.”

He erupted in a similar way the first time UF faced its Canton foes back to back.

Kahlig didn’t even attempt a 3 in a 96-87 high-scoring affair of a win against Walsh (Dec. 7).

Two days later, he knocked in a season-high five threes against Malone.

“You can do a good job against him and feel like you got him under wraps and he can quickly turn it around,” Ernst said.

Ernst said playing Kahlig at the four against Walsh in the absence of Sullivan gave him a few more opportunities around the perimeter.

Kahlig has also made the most of his ability to get ot the rim.

Normally a spot-up shooter, he’s converted 68 percent (32 of 58) of his 2-point attempts this season.

“He’s underrated as a driver,” Ernst said. “He’s probably driven and finished as well as anyone in our program.”

It’s largely why he’s shooting a career-best 46.3 percent from the field. His 3-point shooting, while down from 41.3 as a junior, is still going strong at 39.4.

Kahlig has only been UF’s leading scorer in a game three times this season and hasn’t since the first Malone game.

Meanwhile, Stegmaier has yet to do the same this season.

She’s chipped in 11 double-digit scoring games, eight since the turn of the calendar.

Stegmaier  (54.3 percent) doesn’t qualify for the league or national ranks in field goal percentage.

“The fact that Jenna has been consistent, her and Elissa (Ellerbrock) both, Jenna in particular has stepped up her offensive game,” Wiedie said. “I’m always on her about shooting the ball more.”

And she has.

Stegmaier is coming off a January where she averaged 10.9 ppg while shooting 60 percent from the field, 40 percent (8 of 20) from long distance.

“Even though she doesn’t necessarily like or feel comfortable shooting the 3 a lot, she has to,” Wiedie said. “She’s a good enough shooter that she keeps the defense honest if she knocks down a couple.”

She has 21 3-pointers on the season after only making 10 her first two seasons.

It’s not the most orthodox-looking shot, but it’s effective.

“If you were going to do an instructional video, it’s probably not the shot you would use,” Wiedie said. “Lynsey (Englebrecht) is closer as far as that’s concerned.

“(Jenna’s) been shooting that way for a very long time. Even though her release is a little bit low, the mechanics are still good. She just needs a little bit more separation to get that shot off.”

Stegmaier has arguably made the biggest individual improvement on the team since last season.

That’s even with fellow junior forward Anna Hintz turning beast mode in her junior season and averaging 17.7 points and 8.1 rebounds.

Stegmaier’s growth from a bench role player seeing 19 minutes a game as a sophomore to a high-minute starting four (32.7 mpg) is one of the main reasons the women’s team has seen plenty of success.

Her rebounding ability immediately translated to college as a true freshman. Even that has nearly doubled from 3.6 to 6.2 this season.

She now does all the little things and stuffs the stat sheet so well, Wiedie has a hard time taking her off the court.

“She’s like a security blanket,” Wiedie said of Stegmaier.  “I feel much more comfortable when her and Haley (Horstman) are on the floor. It’s reflective in the number of minutes she’s playing as of late.”