The Ferris State men’s basketball team has tipped off the 2016-17 season on the right hand to streak out to 2-0 start.
Following a 85-79 win over Div. 1 Detroit in exhibition play, Ferris State participated in the two-day GLIAC/GLVC Classic in St.Louis, Mo. and came out smart with wins over the University of Missouri-St.Louis and Quincy University.
In the first game of the class, Ferris faced the Missouri-St. Louis Tritons Friday, Nov. 11. The Bulldogs started the game with a 10-2 run and never trailed. The Tritons closed the gap to three-points twice midway through the second half at 39- 36 and 45-42, but Ferris outscored Missouri-St.Louis 28-19 in the last ten minutes of regulation to seal the win, 73-61.
The top three scorers for the Bulldogs on the day were sophomore center Zach Hankins with 18 points, junior guard Peter Firlik with 17 points and sophomore guard Markese Mayfield who came off the bench to notch 12 points.
Saturday, Nov. 12, the second day of the GLIAC/GLVC Classic, the Bulldogs were three points away from recording triple digits in their win over the Quincy Hawks. After a pretty even first half of play, Ferris looked liked they were starting to take control with a 48-37 lead at half-time. The Hawks responded quickly in the second half by drawing enough Bulldog fouls in just over five minutes of play in the half to be in the bonus. This allowed Quincy to go on a 26- 12 run and eventually take a 63-60 lead with 12:47 remaining in the second half.
Head Coach Andy Bronkema responded by switching to zone defense. This spurred the Bulldogs offense back to life and a healthy mix of jumpers, layups and a dozen free-throws gave the Bulldogs a 97-81 victory.
Again the trio of Hankins, Firlik and Mayfield lead the Dawgs in scoring with 12, 16 and 17 points respectively.
The biggest difference that allowed Ferris to take the win was the scoring output from their bench. Ferris outscored Quincy’s bench 46-13 with great play from Mayfield, redshirt-freshman forward Cole Walker with 13 points and junior guard Mory Diane with 10 points.
The biggest trend for the men’s team this season thus far has been their high field-goal efficiency of 53.6 percent. The high percentage might have something to do with Bronkema’s motto, “the closer it is to the basket, the easier it is to make it,” being taken to heart with excelling in the paint lead by the play of the center Hankins.
The bench has also been a big boost for the first two games this season averaging 34.5 points per game. Both games have seen Bronkema use a deep rotation to try and keep high energy effort on the court at all times.
“We’re doing that because we like the quality of the depth that warrants a deeper rotation” said assistant coach Jim Lake. “We feel like the strength of our group is the group and we preach it every day. The ball moves and it doesn’t in any one particular spot. Everyone feels like if they move the ball that it’ll come back to them. We have an unselfish squad.”
Junior point guard Drew Cushingberry echoed those sentiments saying that the team is buying in.
“To be good, you got to accept your role, no matter how much playing time you’re going to get. You got to accept if you want to be great as a team,” Cushingberry said.
This depth also extends to the leadership with the team. With one senior and four juniors on the squad, there is a shared effort to lead by example.
“Top to bottom they’re accountable,” Bronkema said. “If someone says something that makes sense and that is right, it doesn’t matter who they are. Everyone responds to it in the right way. This is a collective leadership group. I like that vibe we’re getting from that.”
The Bulldogs will look to continue their winning ways against GLVC competitions when they play host to the Lewis University Flyers 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19.