FINDLAY - Tyler Evans hit the first game-winning shot of his basketball career Saturday.
Nothing big, just clinched a dramatic 56-53 overtime win over Cal Poly Pomona in the NCAA Division II national championship game for the University of Findlay and solidified a perfect 36-0 season that saw the Oilers run the table ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Evans and the rest of the Oilers returned to a heroes' welcome here Sunday and were still on an emotional high as they sat down with the media yesterday inside the Malcolm Athletic Center.
"It's been a hectic couple days," Findlay coach Ron Niekamp said. "Returning from Springfield, Mass., [Sunday] and getting such a great reception from our campus and the community, that was awesome."
What may have been more awesome was Evans' 3-pointer as time expired after receiving an inbounds pass with 2.4 seconds left, taking a dribble left and hoisting a 25-footer under heavy pressure that hit nothing but net.
The heroics earned the Findlay senior a guest appearance on ESPN's First Take Monday.
"I love First Take, I watch it like every morning," Evans said. "I see plays like [mine] and guests come on to talk about them, so this is all really exciting for me."
Evans' teammates swear he hits the same type of shot at least two to three times every practice, but considering the circumstances, this was a little bigger.
"I truly believe that anybody could have hit that shot and everybody would have been equally as happy," Evans said. "The way these guys have responded to me making that shot,
I mean you'd never know who hit it. Everybody is just as happy as I am. That just shows the level of selflessness on this team."
Niekamp, who actually didn't come up with the play that set up Evans' game-winning shot - credit for that goes to associate head coach Charlie Ernst - had a good feeling for what was about to transpire when diagramming the final play during a timeout.
"I felt Tyler Evans was the right guy to get the ball in his hands," Niekamp said. "Fortunately, it worked out."
Going forward, the Oilers graduate five seniors, including Evans and Division II national player of the year Josh Bostic.
But for Niekamp, who has guided the Oilers to 24 winning seasons in his 24 years as their coach, and is expected to be back, life goes on.
"It'll be nice to have this trophy in our trophy case," Niekamp said. "Winning a national championship was a goal of ours, but really our priorities lie in other areas. Getting an education and having quality players in our program, those are our priorities."
And if the Oilers ever want to relive the magic of winning Findlay's first national title in men's basketball, they just have to get on the Internet.
"All I have to do is watch it on YouTube, and I'm right back there," Evans said.
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