GVSU earns GLIAC tournament berth

GVL/ Luke Holmes - Aaron Hayes (1) jumps up for the shot. Grand Valley defeated Ferris State 78-69 in the Fieldhouse Arena Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016.

GVL/ Luke Holmes – Aaron Hayes (1) jumps up for the shot. Grand Valley defeated Ferris State 78-69 in the Fieldhouse Arena Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016.

A.A. Knorr

With just over eight minutes to go in the game, senior center Chaz Rollins stopped, squared up and drained the first 3-pointer of his career.

The dagger put the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team ahead by 10, nearly blew the cover off Fieldhouse Arena and all but sealed a win over Ferris State.

The Lakers (18-10, 12-10 GLIAC) topped the Bulldogs 78-69 on Feb. 25, and, with a Northwood loss to Lake Superior State, GVSU snuck into the GLIAC tournament as the buzzer sounded.

“It feels great. I mean, we get to continue playing. We didn’t know. We didn’t know. It was a mystery,” said senior Aaron Hayes. “We put our fate in somebody else’s hands but we pulled this one out today and the balls rolled the way we wanted them to roll and it happened. We get to continue our season.”

Needing a win to even entertain the possibility of a GLIAC tournament berth, the Lakers came out sluggish on Senior Night. GVSU turned the ball over, missed bunnies and couldn’t hit from the outside en route to a 21-point first half — the lowest-scoring half for GVSU in the 2015-16 season. Ferris State (19-9, 13-9 GLIAC) led 27-21 at the break.

“That first half was rough,” Rollins said. “I think everybody’s emotions were just so high and everybody was all over the place. Nobody was really focused on the game, there was so much going on.”

It took the Lakers just over five minutes in the second half to score 21 points, as they opened the second frame with a 13-0 run to take a 34-27 lead. Before the Lakers floated back to Earth, they had rattled off a 26-5 run to crack open a 47-32 lead.

GVSU shot a blistering 58.6 percent from the field in the second half, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. Hayes, who was held off the scoreboard in the first half, scored 21 points in the second half thanks to shooting 16-of-17 from the free throw line.

“Attacking. That’s my game. I’m an attack horse, that’s what they call me,” Hayes said. “That’s what I do. I go to the free throw line and knock down my free throws.”

Hayes and junior guard Luke Ryskamp matched with a game-high 21, though Ryskamp went 7-of-13 from the field compared to Hayes’ 2-of-11 mark. Rollins added 12 points and 11 rebounds. The Lakers forced 15 turnovers and out-rebounded Ferris State 41-34.

Thanks in part to some early foul trouble, the Lakers were able to keep 6-foot-10-inch Bulldog center Jared Stolicker from making an impact on the game. Stolicker scored just eight points and pulled in five rebounds. Ferris State had just one scorer in double-figures, as the Lakers were able to limit any players from getting into a groove.

As part of Senior Night at Fieldhouse Arena, GVSU seniors Rollins, Hayes, Ricardo Carbajal and Darren Kapustka were recognized, along with student assistants Dylan Liddell and Brent Boerema.

With the win and Northwood’s loss, the Lakers slid into the GLIAC tournament, and will occupy the seventh seed. The Lakers are slated to take on GLIAC South champion and No. 2 seed Ashland on March 1 in Ashland, Ohio at 7:30 p.m. GVSU lost its lone contest to Ashland this season 76-72 in overtime in Allendale on Dec. 3, 2015.

“Our short-term reward is we get a chance to stay on this journey together for a little bit longer and hopefully for a couple more weeks, but it doesn’t end today,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley.