One more home game left: Bulldogs eye NCAA regional title

Ferris State’s Nolan King (0) keeps tabs on Lake Superior’s Malek Adams in Sunday’s regional semifinal game. (Pioneer photo/John Raffel)

BIG RAPIDS – When Ferris State’s men’s basketball team tips off tonight against Findlay (Oh.), it will be the biggest men’s game ever witnessed on the FSU campus.

The field of NCAA Division II teams is down to 16. With a win, Ferris would advance to the national Elite Eight March 21-24, next week at Sioux Falls, S.D.

It’s certainly doable for the Bulldogs to not only win tonight but to do very well in the Elite Eight. Remember, this is a team that beat nationally-ranked squads in early November. In late October at Michigan State in an exhibition, Ferris took the Spartans down to the wire below losing.

It’s also, on a one-game scenario, possible to take an earlier exit than desired. Ferris didn’t show complete in their weekend tournament wins over Lake Superior and Ohio Dominican, but still did enough to dominate two very good teams.

Findlay (28-4) will be the toughest team Ferris has seen in the post season. It’s expected to be that way from now on for either school.

Ferris State (34-1) made it 22 wins in a row with Sunday’s 94-71 win over Lake Superior. (25-8) in an NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal game at Wink Arena.

“I thought we played very well today,” Ferris coach Andy Bronkema said after the game. “We got contributions from a lot of different players. They played small ball which gave us some trouble, and it has in the past. But we were able to rebound. I’m proud of these guys for keeping their concentration and focus. We’ve been talking a long time about being the last GLIAC team standing. This year we are proud of that and proud of representing the league.”

“We held the turnovers down a lot,” two-time conference MVP Zach Hankins said. “When we hold that down and play our style of basketball, you can feel pretty confident in it.”

What’s encouraging for Ferris is having other players besides Hankins, Noah King, Markese Mayfield and Drew Cushingberry make huge contributions. Freshman Jaylin McFadden had 14 points in the first half against Lake Superior.

“My team gave me a lot of confidence to shoot the ball,” McFadden said. “They believed in me a lot and gave me a lot of open looks. The seniors give me the confidence I need and are given me open looks”

The home court advantage could prove to be the difference for the Bulldogs against Findley. Ferris lost at home since late in season last year.

“I love it, it gives us the intensity we need, it lifts us to another level,” McFadden said. “The crowd helps us a lot.”

“The support of the community is awesome, it’s huge,” Hankins said. “You see somebody love what you’re doing and you’ll love them back.”

The focus is on Findlay right now.

“We know a little bit about them,” Bronkema said. “We played them this year and beat them at the buzzer. Last year, they beat us twice and knocked out out of the tournament. “They’re one of the storied programs in Division II.”

Right now, so is Ferris State’s.

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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