Kapustka shoots GVSU past No. 12 Findlay

GVL / Hannah Mico. Junior Brandon Barkley leaps toward the basket in an attempt to score against Findlay University.

GVL / Hannah Mico. Junior Brandon Barkley leaps toward the basket in an attempt to score against Findlay University.

Jay Bushen

Sophomore guard Darren Kapustka wasn’t a starter against the No. 12 team in the nation, but he was the finisher.

Kapustka broke a 74-74 tie with 18.2 seconds left to play against the University of Findlay on Saturday by burying a three-pointer that eventually led to an 81-76 home victory for Grand Valley State University.

“My coaches and teammates always encourage me and tell me to fire when I’m open,” he said. “I knew we needed a big shot, and I had an open look.”

GVSU (9-1, 5-1 GLIAC) trailed by 10 points with 9:51 remaining in the game after Findlay senior forward Greg Kahlig turned into a one-man wrecking crew and racked up 30 points.

Kahlig did not score again.

The Lakers began to chip away at the Oiler lead with a swarming defense and a balanced scoring attack in what turned out to be somewhat of a free-throw battle. The teams combined for 46 personal fouls.

Sophomore forward Ricky Carbajal knocked down a pair of freebies with 57 seconds left to tie things up at 74 apiece, then senior guard Rob Woodson came up with a crucial steal that set the stage for the late-game heroics.

“DK is one of the best shooters in the conference,” Woodson said. “I drove and I saw his man help so I pitched it back to him. I already knew he was going to let it go.”

Woodson had a game-high seven assists.

Kapustka, despite coming off the bench, has appeared to have ice water in his veins in clutch situations so far this season.

He recorded the game-winning layup against Ashland University on Dec. 5 and the game-winning free throws two days later against Lake Erie College — with 12 seconds left to play in both situations.

“It’s all about confidence,” he said. “I’ve been in the gym my whole life working on my shot.”

The Grand Rapids, Mich., native was one of four double-digit scorers for GVSU with 14 points. Woodson and junior guard Ryan Sabin led the team with 16, while Carbajal chipped in with 13.

Carbajal also added a game-high three blocks, while junior forward Chaz Rollins turned in an impressive performance with a game-high nine rebounds, eight points, two blocks and a steal.

The upset victory could not have come at a better time for the team, which lost its first contest of the season in a 68-66 heartbreaker to Hillsdale College on Thursday.

“That was really a tough loss,” head coach Ric Wesley said. “It was our first taste of defeat. We talked about how to respond to adversity, and our guys really came back strong.

“The degree of energy and passion we showed was really encouraging. This was the hardest we’ve played all year, and obviously we needed every ounce of that energy to win.”

Findlay (7-3, 3-3 GLIAC) was also upset by Ferris State University 85-81 on Thursday.

GVSU, which will play six of its next seven games on the road, will return to action with a GLIAC matchup against Walsh University on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in North Canton, Ohio.

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