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Published: Tuesday, 3/31/2009

A championship season

UNDEFEATED, national championship seasons are the stuff of legends but no legend could be better than the true story of the University of Findlay men's basketball team.

Led by storied coach Ron Niekamp and senior forward Josh Bostic, the Oilers breezed through the regular season on their way to the team's eighth consecutive Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.

The road to the NCAA Division II championship game proved more difficult, with Findlay pushed to overtime in the Midwest region championship and Elite Eight quarterfinal rounds, then just squeaking by Central Missouri to reach the finals.

The championship game against Cal Poly Pomona was a classic in any division. Findlay led at the half by 10 but the Broncos of Cal Poly roared back in the second half, forcing overtime.

The game seesawed in the extra period. Tied at 53 with two ticks left on the clock, Findlay had the ball out of bounds at its own end - and what happened next was pure fairy tale. The inbounds pass went to Tyler Evans, a senior reserve who had been forced into the game earlier in the overtime when Bostic, the Division II player of the year and tournament MVP, fouled out. Evans dribbled left and let fly a fade-away three pointer. Swish! Nothing but nylon.

At 36-0, the Oilers were the champs, with a new Division II mark for victories in a season and their first national championship.

Coach Niekamp is a legend in his own right at the university, where he has coached for 24 years. In all that time, first in the NAIA before moving up to the NCAA in 1999, he's never had a losing season, winning 550 games against only 174 losses. His teams won 20 or more games in 18 seasons.

Division II teams play in the long shadow of Division I powerhouses such as Michigan State and North Carolina. But to the small college's 4,400 students and thousands of alumni, as well as fans of great basketball everywhere, there's nothing better than the Oilers' perfect season, capped by a fairy tale ending.



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