Findlay’s season is perfection personifiedWritten by Ryan Fowler | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Until recently, my only interaction with Doris Niekamp had been over the phone.
Doris has called the station over the years to thank us for covering her daughter’s volleyball match, or to tell us the final score of her husband’s team.
But this time things were different. Doris did not call in the final score for her husband’s last game. She didn’t have to. The game was on national television.
Doris’ husband, Ron, is the head coach of the University of Findlay men’s basketball team.
Let me rephrase that.
Ron Niekamp is the head coach of national champions.
The Oilers, rewriting history as they ran the table, is the first D-II school to finish the season 36-0.
And how they won is a story in itself.
Their championship game against Cal Poly Pomona on March 28 needed overtime to crown a champion. Not two minutes into overtime, Oilers guard Josh Bostic fouled out of the game. The D-II Player of the Year would watch the rest of the game from the bench.
Taking his place was senior captain, Tyler Evans. The sharpshooter had been shut down and only had one point at that juncture.
Fast-forward to the end of overtime. With less than three seconds left on the clock and the game tied at 53, the Oilers ran an out-of-bounds play.
Now, had Bostic not fouled out, he most likely would have taken that last shot. Instead, Marcus Parker in-bounded the ball to Evans. Dribbling to his left, Evans faded away from his defender, kicking his right leg in the air. The ball rotated in slow motion toward the hoop as the horn sounded.
The crazy-haired senior from Circleville ran down the court, flexing his muscles as his teammates chased him. Yes, he was the hero with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win the national championship.
It was the perfect moment for the perfect season.
And that brings me back to Doris and Ron Niekamp, two of the good guys, two people whose love for each other equals their love of basketball.
Married for more than 30 years, they bring joy and happiness to Findlay.
The day after the dramatic finish, the Oilers returned home. Ten minutes before the Oilers’ team bus rolled up, sleet and rain were falling from the ominous sky above.
But when the team and coach Niekamp, trophy in hand, jumped off the bus, the precipitation stopped, and for about five minutes the sun shined on the crowd of about 500 fans surrounding Croy Gymnasium.
The Findlay fanatics found time between the hoots and hollers to chant, “Tyler, Tyler.” Bostic got on the microphone to thank the crowd and called out another Findlay legend. The senior guard informed NFL football star Ben Roethlisberger to watch out because the Oilers are in town.
As the celebration was winding down, and the players became engulfed by eager fans with Sharpies, Doris and Ron Niekamp faded into the background.
I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Doris for the first time in person. As we stood their talking, Ron handed her the national championship trophy.
No need to call this one in, I think I know how you feel.
Ryan Fowler is the weekend sports anchor for NBC 24 Sports and can be reached at email@example.com.