The clock hit zero, Jim Wink Arena erupted.
For the first time in program history, Ferris State men’s basketball is the Midwest Regional Champion after an 80-65 victory over Findlay Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs improved to 35-1 on the season, capturing that elusive regional crown for the first time in the long history of the program. Many players over the years have stepped foot onto the hardwood of Wink arena chasing this moment.
“Just excited for the team, for the guys. They deserve it. This year, we’re the ones that get to represent the Midwest. It was a heck of a game. Our guys made plays. It was pretty powerful today, just extremely blessed and thankful,” head coach Andy Bronkema said.
The Bulldogs were led by Senior Drew Cushingberry who bagged 21 points along with five boards and four assists. Meanwhile, junior DeShaun Thrower came off the bench and put up 20, a good chunk of which came in the final ten minutes, electrifying the crowd while the game was close.
“In my four years here, I’ve never seen Wink Arena like that. The energy was crazy, and we just fed off of that. It was a sight to see,” Cushingberry said.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 22-7 lead early in the game before taking a 38-29 lead into halftime. The Oilers bounced back in the final twenty, catching fire from the field after struggling in the first half. Findlay got a strong stretch midway through the half, taking a 57-55 lead, their first of the ball game.
Things began to seem dim for the Bulldogs when junior Zach Hankins went crashing down under the basket, which was a play that stole the breath from Wink Arena. Hankins was helped off into the locker room but was back on the court moments later to a standing ovation. Hankins finished the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds for the double-double.
“It was pretty sore. This was a big game so as long as there wasn’t anything major wrong, I wasn’t about to sit out any longer than I needed to. It wasn’t too bad,” Hankins said.
As Hankins came back in, Thrower caught fire from the field, dazzling the crowd with a few exceptional plays that put the Bulldogs back on top.
“Coach put me in just to try and bring energy on the defensive end. I just ended up feeding off the defensive energy. My teammates end up finding me and I hit some open shots,” Thrower said.
A pair of three-ball’s later and some cold shooting from Findlay helped Ferris cruise to a big lead late in the game. A lead that would never be taken.
“We’re going to spend a few days enjoying it,” Bronkema said.
Now the Bulldogs head to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where they will compete in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Div. 2 Tournament. The game is scheduled for Tuesday, Mar. 20. Tip-off time is yet to be announced.
If the Bulldogs story can continue, they will advance to the Final Four scheduled for Thursday, Mar. 22.
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