By ANDY WOLF
Postseason play is looming right around the corner.
How any team finishes up the regular season often dictates their playoff path.
The University of Findlay men’s and women’s basketball teams are positioned nicely in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference standings with all of their remaining game at home.
The men’s team is ranked No. 15 in Division II with a 21-3 overall record and 15-1 in GMAC play.
They’ve already clinched at least a share of the GMAC title with four games left and can secure an outright crown against Lake Erie (12-10, 7-7) with tipoff slated for 6 p.m. today at Croy Gymnasium.
“We know from personal experience the best way to advance in the postseason is to have the top seed,” UF men’s coach Charlie Ernst said. “Even if we’re fortunate to lock up the top seed in our conference, we’re still in the discussion to be the top seed in our region. We’re playing for additional home games and opportunities with every game we play.”
The official regional rankings aren’t out yet but the Oilers have played themselves into the conversation with other league leaders in the GLIAC’s Ferris State (23-1) and GLVC’s Bellarmine (24-2) as potential Midwest Regional hosts.
The UF women’s team (16-5, 13-4 GMAC) has a bit more work to do in league play.
The Oilers trail Ursuline and Cedarville in the loss column, both 13-3 in the GMAC, yet host each of them within the next week.
But first their attention is on Lake Erie (11-11, 7-9), beginning at 8 p.m. today.
“We’re in a great spot,” UF women’s coach Jim Wiedie said. “We’re playing our last five games at home. Nobody is in the position that we’re in. It’s just matter of taking care of business.”
Wiedie’s major concern is his team has been “average at best” over the last six games (3-3).
“It’s been our defense more than anything,” Wiedie said.
Injuries are starting to take its toll on either team, too.
The UF men suffered both its first GMAC loss and first overall loss in 16 games last week to Malone before bouncing back to beat Walsh on Saturday, all without senior forward Taren Sullivan.
Ernst said Sullivan (left ankle) began practicing Monday and is “doing a little more each day”.
He’ll be a gametime decision today with Ernst finding the right balance between over-cautiousness and over-anxious regarding Sullivan’s ankle.
The Oilers are rebounding with tenacity, lately, in his absence.
Even adjusting to a four-guard starting lineup, Findlay dominated the GMAC’s best rebounding team in Walsh 41-28 on Saturday.
The second-best rebounding team: Lake Erie (39.5 rpg).
The Oilers overcame a 43-30 rebounding disadvantage to topple the Storm 65-59 on Jan. 6.
“We rebounded well against Walsh because our guys, in some ways, were backed into a corner,” Ernst said. “…I wouldn’t say we out-jumped (Walsh) but we out-scrapped them.
Meanwhile, the women are gaining a starter back but losing another.
Wiedie said senior guard Lynsey Englebrecht (13.8 ppg) is 100 percent and hasn’t felt any “ill-effects” after being struck by a car on campus last week, forcing her to miss the Malone game.
The 3-point specialist needs nine threes to break the UF single-season mark of 78 set by Trisha Lauck (1997-98).
While Englebrecht returned for the Walsh game, junior Elissa Ellerbrock (Ottawa-Glandorf) suffered a high ankle sprain in the same game and is out indefinitely.
She averages 7.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in making all 21 starts.
Wiedie is hoping his team’s strength in depth will fill the void, especially considering the Oilers have four games in the next eight days.
After Lake Erie, UF hosts Ursuline on Saturday, Cedarville on Tuesday and Ohio Valley next Thursday.
It’s a similar stretch the Oilers faced at the start of 2018 and were one bad quarter against Ursuline away from going 4-0.
“The fact is that our kids are pretty mentally tough,” Wiedie said. “They’ve been through that before, even though two of those games are Ursuline and Cedarville back-to-back.”
Lake Erie’s men and women are both on the cusp of making the conference tournament at seventh and eighth, respectively.
Sophomore guard Gabe Kynard (15.5 ppg) is one of three GMAC men to average at least 15 points and shoot 50 percent or better — UF’s Sullivan being one of the other two.
Senior guard Kayla Gabor (19.5 ppg) ranks second among GMAC women in scoring.
She posted 23 points and 15 rebounds in the Storm’s 83-62 loss to UF on Jan. 6.
Basketball: Men, women in good spots as regular season winds down
By ANDY WOLF