Second-half surge lifts FSU over Findlay 80-65 in Midwest Regional Title game

Senior guard Drew Cushingberry (4) looks for an open man during Tuesday’s game. (Pioneer photo/Maxwell Harden)

BIG RAPIDS — DeShaun Thrower was on his A-game on Tuesday night.

The junior tallied 20 points off the bench — including 12 during a crucial second-half run — to push the Bulldogs to an 80-65 win over Findlay to clinch the Midwest Regional Championship in front of a sold-out crowd at Jim Wink Arena.

“It was a great environment,” Thrower said. “We fed off the fans and they gave us energy. When they got close we fed off the fans and they helped us pull it out.”

“I’m excited for the team, for the guys,” head coach Andy Bronkema said. “It was a heck of a game. We saw our double-digit lead evaporate but were able to bounce back and finish it off. Our guys made plays.”

Drew Cushingberry came up big in his final home game with 21 points, five rebounds and four assists with zero turnovers. Zach Hankins has 12 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks and Markese Mayfield added seven points and seven rebounds.

Taren Sullivan led the Oilers with 16 points and Alex White had 12 points and five rebounds. Findlay star Martyce Kimbrough finished with six points on 2 of 12 (0 of 6 3P) shooting.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 27-12 lead in the first half and seemed on their way to an easy victory, but Findlay wasn’t going down without a fight. The Oilers trimmed the lead to as little as four before the Bulldogs finished the half strong. A Hankins putback as time expired gave the Bulldogs a 38-29 lead at the break.

The second half saw the resilient Oilers claw their way back into the game and even took a 54-53 lead following a White jumper.

That’s when Thrower took over.

Trailing 59-57 with under eight minutes to go, Thrower sparked a 21-8 Ferris State run to finish the game. The Oilers had a tough time defending both Thrower and Cushingberry due to their ability to both attack the basket and shoot from the perimeter.

Thrower and Cushingberry combined to make 13 of 20 shots, including 5 of 6 3-pointers.

“Coach put me and Jaylin (McFadden)in to try and bring energy on the defensive end with the press,” “I just ended up feeding off the defensive energy. My teammates found me and I was able to hit some open shots.”

“Basketball is a game of runs,” Cushingberry said. “We knew they were going to make a run but we had to counter that run. We were patient on offense and got some stops, which led to some easy buckets down the stretch.”

Conversely, the Bulldogs (35-1) did a great job defensively on Kimbrough, who entered Tuesday’s game averaging 18 points per game.

“We knew he was going to get shots up,” Thrower said. “He’s a real good player. You have to just give your best effort and hope he misses some shots. Tonight he missed some shots he usually makes. We were fortunate tonight, but coach had a great game plan for us.”

A scary moment occurred when Hankins went down hard on his hip after trying to secure a rebound during the second half. He left the game but returned moments later.

“I fell on my hip and got a bad bruise,” Hankins said. “It hurt pretty bad to begin with but I wasn’t going to sit out any longer than I needed to. This was a big game.”

The Bulldogs shot 42 percent (28 of 66) from the field and limited Findlay to 38.9 percent (28 of 72), including 4 of 26 3-pointers.

The win sends the Bulldogs to their second Elite Eight appearance in school history, the first of which happened in 1989. The tournament takes place March 20-24 in Sioux Falls, S.D. No. 1-seed Ferris will face Barry at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Sanford Pentagon in the national quarterfinals.

“We’re going to take a few days to enjoy this,” Bronkema said. “This is uncharted territory for us. We’re going to keep battling.”

Cushingberry named Most Outstanding Player

Ferris State senior Drew Cushingberry earned the Midwest Regional Most Outstanding Player award following Tuesday’s win over Findlay. He averaged 16.7 points, four rebounds, and 4.7 assists over three Midwest Regional tournament games. Cushingberry was joined by teammates Zach Hankins and Noah King as members of the All-Tournament team.

Leave a Reply