Ferris State edges Barry 87-84, advances to Final Four

Ferris State’s Markese Mayfield (3) skies for a lay-up while defended by Barry’s Sunday Dech during Tuesday’s NCAA Division II Elite Eight game in Sioux Falls, SD. (Photo courtesy of Dave Eggen)

By Tom Savage

Special to Pioneer

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – It was a similar script for Ferris State in the Elite Eight at the Sanford Pentagon. The Bulldogs continued their torrid scoring pace, this time putting up 87 points against Barry University, and advancing to the Division II Final Four with an 87-84 victory.

It’s the second time FSU (36-1) has reached the Final Four, the first time since 1988.

For as excited as coach Andy Bronkema and the Bulldogs were to reach the Final Four, it almost seemed as much a relief. The top-seeded Bulldogs got all they wanted from No. 8 Barry (23-9), as the Buccaneers were within striking distance late.

“Nope, no relief,” Bronkema said. “We’ve got two more games possible, and I think we’ll have some relief during the offseason and reflect a little bit. But there’s not time for that.”

Down two with 31 seconds to play, Barry’s Elvar Fridriksson missed two free throws for a chance to tie the game for the first time. FSU hit free throws, albeit not a strong effort from line, down the stretch to seal the three-point win. The Bulldogs were 5-of-10 from the line in the final 26 seconds.

“We’ve all been around a lot of basketball, and if you miss too many free throws, chances are you’re going to lose. We made just enough,” Bronkema said. “We had a chance to ice the game a little better at the end, but we didn’t. We made a stop on defense, and made it work.”

FSU had the lead to as many as 11 in the second half before Barry began to chip away at the lead. With 6:55 to play, Barry forced FSU into a shot clock violation, and the Buccaneers made them pay. The next time down the floor, Marko Tomic scored, and the Bucs were within two for the first time in the second half.

FSU again got the lead to six late in the second half, but again, Barry didn’t seem fazed. With one minute remaining, Daniel Mortensen hit a deep 3-pointer for the Bucs, and again, Barry was within two at 82-80, setting up the failed free throw attempts from Fridriksson after FSU didn’t score on the other end.

“We certainly had our chances,” Barry coach Butch Estes said. “We had numerous opportunities, and normally throughout the year, those plays have worked for us and the ball has fallen our way. Today, it didn’t. Had the ball bounced our way, we’d be moving on.”

The Bulldogs looked to cruise and put this one away early. FSU came out of the gates from the opening tip and overwhelmed the Buccaneers. The Bulldogs built a 31-16 lead midway through the half, and Drew Cushingberry couldn’t be stopped. He finished the half with 13 points, a big chunk of those coming during FSU’s run to open it up.

“They started to feel us out and I should have made a couple of changes to keep them off balance,” Bronkema said. “But it’s one of those things where you’re rolling pretty good and you kinda stick with it until it’s broken. When you play the style we play, you’re not going to go away from it. When you play fast, it allows teams to get back in it.”

Cushingberry finished with a game-high 20 points and four assists. Peter Firlik had 18, Zach Hankins 15 and DeShaun Thrower 11 to lead FSU in scoring. Hankins also finished with 11 rebounds for his 20th double-double of the season.

For as potent as FSU’s offense is, it was an impressive defensive effort that help fuel the big run in the first half to open the double-digit lead. After a Jaylin McFadden basket gave the Bulldogs the 15-point lead, FSU had limited Barry to just 5-of-20 shooting from the field.

But Barry didn’t fade, and made things interesting before halftime. The Buccaneers got a 3-pointer from Kooper Glick, Evan Walshe and Elvar Fridriksson in the final five minutes, and Barry cut it to 39-37 at halftime.

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