The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV men’s basketball win six straight, falls just short of GLIAC Championship

GVL / Risho Wooten

After winning six games to finish the season and to reach the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Championship game, the Grand Valley State University Lakers men’s basketball team fell just short of winning the conference tournament.

The Lakers (16-15, 11-7) began the tournament as the No. 4 seed and were first tasked with facing the No. 5 seeded Michigan Technological University Huskies (11-17, 8-10) at home on Wednesday, March 6. GVSU came out on top 79-76 in a game that was a tight battle from start to finish.

Getting on the board first was Huskies sophomore guard Dan Gherezgher, who drilled a three in rhythm after MTU won the tip off. Gherezgher and fellow sophomore guard Marcus Tomashek are the only Huskies that averaged double figures this season. Gherezgher posted 15 points per game, while Tomashek posted 23 points per game. The Lakers struggled to stop them, which was a key reason that MTU kept it close.

After the Huskies went up 6-0, the Lakers went on a 15-4 run to take the lead. Both teams eventually tied at 19-all and ended up in a three minute scoring drought. Tomashek ended that drought with a deep 3-pointer to break the tie and give the Huskies the lead back.

The game later tied, yet again, at 28-28 after both sides traded leads with three minutes remaining in the first half. MTU proceeded to go on an 8-3 run, leading the Lakers 36-31 at halftime.

On the first possession out of the break, GVSU graduate senior forward Marius Grazulis hit a hook shot over his defender. Grazulis has been a focal point of the Lakers offense all season and finished the game with a 16 point and 10 rebound double-double.

After Grazulis’ bucket, Tomashek answered immediately with a turnaround jumper from beyond the arc. Tomashek ended with a dominant 32 points in the game. Gherezgher put up 26 points of his own, as no other player on the Huskies scored more than six points as the two combined for 58 of the Huskies’ 76 points.

The game eventually tied at 50-50 as GVSU clawed back in front after going down by seven points in the first five minutes of the second half. Then, a Grazulis hook shot gave the Lakers the lead for the first time in over 10 minutes of action. Both teams would then either tie or trade leads several times throughout the remainder of the game. 

With 1:31 remaining, Docks got into the lane and hit a short turnaround jumper to tie it up at 74-all. Docks led the Lakers with 13 points in the second half and 21 points in the game and said he is comfortable being asked to make plays in crucial moments.

“It’s just something I’ve been doing for a long time, you know, growing up in high school and all that. I’ve always got those late clock shots, practicing it every day helps a lot,” Docks said.

GVSU head coach Cornell Mann believed Docks’ impact on the game went beyond the box sheet, but to how he dictated the pace of the Lakers’ offense by controlling the tempo in which they played.

With an even score, the Lakers forced a Huskies turnover and got the ball right back. GVSU sophomore guard Britain Harris attacked the basket and drew a foul, putting himself at the free throw line. Things got chippy before the free throws, but after the officials settled down players on both teams Harris hit both shots to take a two point lead with one minute remaining.

GVL / Risho Wooten

Gherezgher answered shortly thereafter with a layup to tie at 42 seconds. After the Lakers struggled to get a good look on offense, Mann called a timeout with 26 seconds left and 14 seconds on the shot clock. 

Coming out of the break, Docks crossed over his defender and got deep into the paint to draw another foul and in turn more free throws. After missing the first, he hit a crucial second shot at the line to give his team the lead back at 77-76.

The Huskies had the ball down just one point and 16 seconds to work with. MTU’s Josh Terrian, who had just three points all game on 1 for 4 shooting, got an open look from the corner for three with five seconds left. He missed the shot and Harris came down with the rebound.

After being fouled Harris made two more clutch free throws and the Huskies were down to just three seconds. Gherezgher got a deep shot off three, but missed it, as the GVSU advanced in the tournament with a nail biting 79-76 victory.

“I thought it was an unbelievable game, but I also thought that we played a really good team and for us to beat a really good team like that for a third time. That’s hard to do, so kudos to our guys.” Mann said.

After beating MTU, GVSU had to travel to Marquette, Michigan to face the No. 1 seed Northern Michigan Wildcats (22-10, 14-4) on their home turf. It was also a homecoming game for Grazulis, who is a native of Marquette and was able to play in front of several friends and family in both the semifinal and championship games.

After playing close for the initial 10 minutes of the first half, the Lakers struggled to slow down the Wildcats offense and found themselves chasing a 49-42 deficit at halftime. GVSU came out of the break firing on all cylinders, putting up 50 second half points and holding NMU to just 28. The Lakers had five players in double figures scoring and shot 55.4% from the field and an impressive 57.1% from three point range.

This dominant performance on both ends propelled them to a 92-77 win and an appearance in the GLIAC Championship game against their rival and No. 3 seeded Ferris State University Bulldogs (25-6, 12-6).

Playing Ferris State is always a battle. In the regular season, each team won on their own home court. This game was played on a neutral site, a likely display of the most even playing field possible.

The homecoming to Marquette for Marius Grazulis was also a homecoming for his brother Vejas Grazulis, a redshirt junior forward for Ferris State. 

The Lakers jumped out to a 41-30 halftime lead behind a high pressure defense, but after relying on their defensive performance in the first half they gave up 57 points in the second. This was too much for GVSU to overcome. The Lakers were tied at 68-68 with six minutes left, but slowly fell behind as the remainder of the game wore on. GVSU’s efforts were futile and they fell 87-76 in the GLIAC Championship and their final game of the season.

Following the game, Vejas Grazulis was named the GLIAC Tournament MVP. It was a special moment for Marius, who played his last collegiate game in the city he was born in, against the younger brother grew up playing against.

“It was a surreal feeling, honestly. I was able to have a bunch of my friends there too, so it was really cool.” Marius Grazulis said. “Obviously we lost, but it was so cool to be able to finish that out with my brother and our families watching in our hometown.”

Marius Grazulis reflected on his five years at GVSU, appreciative of his experience as a college athlete.

“I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve had. Having the opportunity to play college basketball is something that not a lot of people get to do. Not a single season was a losing record,” Marius Grazulis said.

Mann had some very high praise for Marius Grazulis regarding his time with the program, noting that his high character and leadership will be missed.

“He’s unbelievable, and I’ve been coaching for a long time, you don’t get to coach a lot of Mars (Marius Grazulis),” Mann said. I think people will find, even without basketball, that he is a special young man. I look forward to his future. As a player, if that’s what he wants to do, he’ll certainly be able to do that. But as a man, as a husband, as a father, if that’s what he wants. I can’t wait to see that because of the type of leader he is as a player.”

Although Marius Grazulis heading out the door is a big loss, much of a very young Lakers team is returning. Mann said he is excited about the potential for his squad after gaining crucial experience against one of the toughest schedules in the country this past season. GVSU finished their campaign at 16-15 overall and 11-7 in conference play, having won six straight games to close out the year before falling to the Bulldogs.

GVL / Risho Wooten
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About the Contributor
Nelson Hubbell
Nelson Hubbell, Sports Editor
Nelson Hubbell is the Sports Editor for the Lanthorn for the 2023-2024 school year. A senior at Grand Valley State University, before his time with the Lanthorn, he was a staff writer for The Collegiate Live, Grand Rapids Community College's student publication where he was a student for two years. He worked for a restaurant for four and a half years in Holland, Mich. called Hops at 84 East, a place he holds close to his heart. During his time there he was a manager for roughly two years. He loves camping, hiking and being outside in general. He is super passionate about football, basketball, baseball and hockey and loves all things sports and competition. Nelson will be pursuing a career in sportscasting as a play-by-play broadcaster and or as an analyst after his time at GVSU. Graduating Winter 2024 Major: Multimedia Journalism