By ANDY WOLF
Surrounded by a trio of Walsh defenders, Martyce Kimbrough fired up the final shot of overtime.
Contrary to how his night had gone leading up the buzzer-beater, the ball splashed through the net to propel the University of Findlay men’s basketball team to an 88-85 come-from-behind win in overtime Thursday over a stunned Walsh squad in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season finale at the Cecchini Center in North Canton.
“There’s not a lot of guys the league that can make that shot, and I’m sure (Walsh) didn’t want to foul him because he’s a clutch free throw shooter,” UF coach Charlie Ernst said. “They just put their hands up and are probably thinking now they should’ve left their feet to contest him. That’s probably easier said than done, but it was still a very difficult shot.”
The Oilers (22-5, 16-4 GLIAC) swept the South Division the second time through to close their regular season on a seven-game winning streak to earn the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. The Cavaliers (16-10, 9-10) did not qualify for postseason play.
Findlay plays host to seventh-seeded Grand Valley State (16-11, 9-11) at 7 p.m., Tuesday in the GLIAC tournament opener at Croy Gymnasium.
The Lakers dumped the Oilers 61-58 in the first conference game of the season when Luke Ryskamp hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation.
Kimbrough’s shot on Thursday came right after Walsh’s Zac Carter buried the tying 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 5.9 seconds remaining.
Ernst chose not to call timeout and instead let Kimbrough dribble the length of the floor to the left wing, where he pulled up well beyond the arc and just a few feet from his head coach near the sideline.
“He rhythm-dribbled right into his shot,” Ernst said. “He took his regular Martyce jumper. Granted, it was highly contested.”
Kimbrough, last week’s NCAA Division II National Player of the Week, scored 28 points, but had an off-night from 3-point range.
He made only 1 in his first 11 attempts before connecting on the most important one.
The game-winner also made Kimbrough the 45th player in program history to score 1,000 points. A junior who transferred to UF after his freshman season at the University of Indianapolis, he reached the scoring milestone in just two seasons with the Oilers.
“That’s something special,” Ernst said. “I know his dad was in attendance tonight which made it all the sweeter. The great shot, great moment for our team, great moment to end the regular season and head into the tournament.”
The Oilers played their final GLIAC regular season game as they move to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference next season.
UF’s Taren Sullivan poured in 23 points and 13 rebounds for his fifth double-double this season.
His 3-point play gave the Oilers a one-point lead in the final minute of overtime and a pair of free throws by Elijah Kahlig meant the Cavaliers could only tie it on their last possession.
Tyler Stern-Tucker added 15 points and six rebounds with an equally clutch moment at the foul line.
As the lively crowd echoed throughout the Cecchini Center, the 6-foot-8 senior made two free throws to tie the game with 23 seconds left in regulation and the Oilers survived a Carter miss on a jumper in the final seconds.
“We have not been a great free throw shooting team this season, if there’s one Achilles heel,” Ernst said. “… That’s what it takes; just a lot of guys.”
Ernst cited those key free throws as part of what helped UF complete an 11-point comeback with 8:34 to play.
Carter had 25 points on 9-of-21 shooting.
Trey Fletcher tallied a game-high 34 points for his fourth 30-point game of the season.
The 6-foot-8 senior missed a 3-pointer in the final minute of overtime, leading to Kahlig’s free throws. Fletcher otherwise shot 13 of 25 from the field, 5 of 9 from long range.
Ernst saw Fletcher and Carter, the leading scoring duo in the GLIAC, have their typical games despite being well defended most of the night.
Both are career 1,000-point scorers who played their final game as seniors.
“You got the feeling at halftime this game was going to come down to the guys because the two offensive superstars they have are so difficult to defend,” Ernst said. “It was their night to be honored and they came out with energy. I’m glad we’re done guarding those guys because they’re awfully decent.”
FINDLAY (21-5, 15-4 GLIAC)
Sullivan 10-18 2-3 — 23, Stern-Tucker 6-13 2-4 — 15, R. Smith 0-1 0-0 — 0, Kimbrough 12-23 2-2 — 28, Kahlig 3-7 2-2 — 10, Singleton 1-3 0-0 — 2, T. Smith 0-2 2-2 — 2, Overhiser 3-3 2-2 — 8. TOTALS: 35-70 12-15 — 88.
WALSH (16-10, 9-10 GLIAC)
Fletcher 13-25 3-4 — 34, Vaudrin 3-7 1-2 — 7, Carter 9-21 4-4 — 25, Moore 4-8 0-0 — 12, Stokes 1-4 0-0 — 2, Wess 1-2 0-0 — 3, Keck 0-1 0-0 — 0, Carpenter 0-2 0-0 — 0, Brunet 1-1 0-0 — 2. TOTALS: 32-71 8-10 — 85.
3-POINT GOALS: Findlay 6-25 (Sullivan 1-5, Stern-Tucker 1-3, Kimbrough 2-11, Kahlig 2-5, T. Smith 0-1); Walsh 13-31 (Fletcher 5-9, Vaudrin 0-2, Carter 3-7, Moore 4-6, Stokes 0-3, Wess 1-2, Keck 0-1, Carpenter 0-1).
REBOUNDS: Findlay 36 (Sullivan 13); Walsh 40 (Vaudrin 10).
ASSISTS: Findlay 5 (Kahlig 2); Walsh 11.
STEALS: Findlay 4 (Kimbrough 2); Walsh 4.
BLOCKS: Findlay 1 (Sullivan); Walsh 2 (Vaudrin & Keck).
TURNOVERS: Findlay 6; Walsh 12.
TOTAL FOULS: Findlay 13; Walsh 14.
FOULED OUT: Walsh (Vaudrin).