Laker teams seek grand finales in Big Rapids

GVL / Robert Mathews
Bailey Cairnduff (34) guarding a Saginaw Valley State player for Kayla Dawson (14)

GVL / Robert Mathews Bailey Cairnduff (34) guarding a Saginaw Valley State player for Kayla Dawson (14)

Jay Bushen

The Ferris State University basketball teams will not qualify for either 2014 GLIAC Tournament, but that doesn’t mean the Bulldogs won’t be chomping at the bit for a chance to play spoiler against their playoff-seeking rivals.

Playoff destinies will be on the line tonight as the Grand Valley State University teams make the hour-long bus ride north for their final regular season games against FSU at the Jim Wink Arena in Big Rapids, Mich.

The GLIAC Tournament reserves eight postseason berths: six for the top three squads in each division and two for wild cards teams. The GVSU men can clinch the fifth seed with a victory; the Laker women may need a win to get in.

“Records are not important anytime you play the Bulldogs,” women’s head coach Janel Burgess said. “We know it’s going to be a dogfight, a good ole battle, and we’re excited to get up there.”

The GVSU women (14-11, 12-9) will have an opportunity to clinch seventh place, but a loss could mean an early end to their 2013-2014 campaign if tiebreakers prove to be heartbreakers.

Senior guard Dani Crandall probably won’t let that happen without a fight.

Crandall, the team’s only senior, scored 9.9 points per game in the first half of the season but has been on a whole new level since while averaging 19.0.

“I don’t think there’s words that can describe it,” Burgess said. “DC is just playing unbelievable. She’s definitely covering every definition of leadership — from her play, to her energy, to her focus and just the motherly instinct she can show sometimes.”

Crandall’s most recent heroics came at Wayne State University on Saturday when her old-fashioned three-point play with 6.7 seconds finished a 15-point comeback in a 65-64 Laker victory.

She is one of just two players in the GVSU program with four years of experience — and both players are playing like it.

Fifth-year senior point guard Rob Woodson, who was named the GLIAC North Division Player of the Week on Monday, is coming off a GVSU season-high 29-point performance in the men’s team’s 82-73 win at WSU.

“We’ve been clicking,” junior guard Ryan Sabin said. “Rob has been playing phenomenal lately and we’ve got our bigs playing well. The biggest thing going into the tournament is just playing well as a team.”

The Laker men (18-7, 14-7) have played well as a team in their last two games and have clinched a playoff berth, but they will be looking to avoid any tie-breaking scenarios on the road tonight. A victory secures fifth place; a loss likely leads to unfavorable leapfrogging in the standings.

The most likely scenario is a third crack at the Huskies of Michigan Technological University in the first round. MTU, one of the top shooting teams in all of the NCAA Division II, has taken both contests against the Lakers in 2014.

“That game is a long ways away,” men’s head coach Ric Wesley said. “It’s not until next Wednesday and, after talking today, there’s a lot of different combinations. We could play Findlay, we could play Michigan Tech, we could play Walsh — you just never know what’s going to happen.”

GVSU, which won the men’s and women’s games against FSU at home on Feb. 3, will get things going against the lady Bulldogs at 6:00 p.m. before the men’s teams square off in the nightcap at 8:00 p.m.