The Ferris men’s basketball team advanced to the Midwest Regional Final on Sunday, March 11, as they defeated the Lake Superior State University Lakers for the third straight time 94-71 in the Midwest Regional Semifinal.
The Bulldogs came into last weekend’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament as the No. 1 overall seed in the Midwest Region, with the potential of hosting the first three rounds for the first time in school history.
Ferris defeated the eighth-seeded Ohio Dominican Wildcats in the first round of the tournament 75-57, on March 10 in Jim Wink Arena.
The second round matchup between the Dawgs and the Lakers was the fourth time the two teams have met this year.
Earlier this season, the Lakers handed the Bulldogs their only loss of the season in a 79-74 final on Dec. 16 at Bud Cooper Gymnasium in Sault Ste. Marie.
Since the loss, the Bulldogs have figured out the key to success against the Lakers and have dominated them.
The Bulldogs had beaten the Lakers two of the last three contests, including their historical fourth-straight Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Championship with a 69-61 win over LSSU on March 4 in Jim Wink Arena.
“We’ve focused a lot of our time on defense. Coach Bronkema made some adjustments after the loss in how we defend screens and guard their shooters that has not only helped us beat them but also continue our winning streak with other teams,” Ferris junior center Zach Hankins said. “We feel such a strong rivalry with them that makes a win feel so much better.”
Hankins was honored as the GLIAC Tournament Most Valuable Player, in addition to Ferris’ senior guard Drew Cushingberry and senior wing Noah King receiving GLIAC All-Tournament Team awards.
Spectators of Ferris basketball can feel the excitement and intensity in the air with this team. In recent years, the Bulldogs have had GLIAC Champions and All-Americans, however, the feel of this team is distinct from past teams.
“The biggest difference between us and those previous teams I think is our chemistry,” Ferris sophomore wing Greg Williams said. “We all like each other, always hangout and believe in one another on the floor. Our depth is key, so when our starters are out, our bench can keep up the tempo and the intensity until they check back in.”
The team currently has sole possession of the best record in NCAA Division II basketball with a nation-leading 34 wins. The team currently sits at 34-1 overall on the season.
The victory against LSSU in the Midwest Regional Semifinal also marks the 22nd straight win for the Dawgs.
“Our goal is to get to the Elite Eight right now,” Hankins said. “It has only been done once and we missed our chance a few years ago and after that we want to win that national championship.”
The Bulldogs are set to face-off against the third-seeded Findlay Oilers in the Midwest Region Final on Tuesday, March 13, at 7 p.m. in Jim Wink Arena.
The Bulldogs will be looking for revenge as last year their tournament run came to an end at the hands of the Oilers in a 68-63 loss in the Midwest Region Semifinal.
“We want to win the region in a packed house for a Sweet 16 game and then when you get to the Elite Eight where anything can happen,” Williams said.
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