Lakers tell Bulldogs to Playdead

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter
Sophomore Tony Peters throws up a shot during the previous game against Ferris. The latest match up was an 82-80 win.

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter Sophomore Tony Peters throws up a shot during the previous game against Ferris. The latest match up was an 82-80 win.

Brady Fredericksen

For the Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team, Saturday’s 82-80 overtime victory over rival No. 21 Ferris State University definitely fit the parameters for a storybook ending.

Sophomore point guard Breland Hogan, who has averaged only 6.4 points per game this season, put together the best game of his young career, scoring a career-high 27 points, including his buzzer-beating jumper in OT that gave GVSU their biggest win of the season.

“I wasn’t surprised to get the ball. Justin’s good at finding people; I just knew I had to be ready,” said Hogan.

After recently falling from the national and regional rankings this week, Saturday’s game against Ferris (20-6, 16-5 GLIAC) evolved into much more than an end-of-season rivalry game. It became a must-win for the Lakers (19-7, 14-5 GLIAC).

The play of Hogan throughout the game proved to be the x-factor for the Lakers, who led by as many as ten points in the first half.

“He obviously had a tremendous game from start all the way to finish, but he has been having good practices here the last couple of weeks and his tempo and decision making have improved,” said Ric Wesley, GVSU head coach. “I don’t know that I saw this kind of game, but he really put it all together today.”

After a quick 12-2 start set the pace for the visiting Lakers, the Bulldogs lived up to their national billing, fighting back behind senior All-American Justin Keenan’s 18 points to tie the game at 34 going into the half.

GVSU senior Justin Ringler, the team’s leading scorer, couldn’t find a rhythm Saturday and scored only 7 points on 1-for-11 shooting, but Hogan and fellow backcourt mate James Thomas (18 points) picked up the slack.

“It’s definitely important, you know, we just have to help get better looks and knock down our open looks we get,” said Storrs, who added five points and four rebounds. “Really, it’s just about being ready and crashing glass, and I felt like we were focused on that all week in practice.”

Down the stretch, the play of Hogan and Thomas continued to keep the Lakers on top. Hogan had a pair of jumpers in the last two minutes that gave GVSU a three-point lead.

“I knew (a game like this) was coming sooner or later, so I just had to pick my spots, said Hogan, who scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half. “We have a lot of veterans as our main scorers, but it was just a big game for us to get this win.”

James Thomas’ foul on Darien Gay sent the Ferris senior to the line with 36 seconds left. Gay made both, cutting the lead to one, but Hogan made both free throws with 25 seconds left to get the Lakers back to a three-point lead.

The ensuing plays saw both Justin Keenan and Matt DeHart miss potential game-tying 3-pointers before Gay was bailed out on an Alvin Storrs foul on another three-point attempt.

Gay went to the line with 15 seconds left and made all three free throws to tie the game. Ringler took the ball coast to coast in an attempt to win the game for GVSU, but was blocked by Keenan. The teams went back and forth throughout the overtime period as well, with the Lakers leading by as many as five midway through.

With the game tied and 14.8 seconds remaining, GVSU had the ball at midcourt in the hands of Ringler, who took an Alvin Storrs screen toward the basket. As the defense collapsed, Ringler threw the ball back out to Storrs, who swung it to Hogan at the top of the key, where he took a single dribble toward the free throw line before sinking a bank-shot 17-footer at the buzzer to give the Lakers’ the two-point overtime victory.

“I’m just proud of the guys. We’ve had some bumps in the road here as of late, but our guys have continued to hang together,” said Wesley. “Today, when all that was on the line, we just wanted to play well and rise to the challenge, so I’m very happy that they were rewarding.”

The win gives the Lakers a No. 3 seed and momentum going into an important conference tournament beginning on Wednesday. GVSU will open the tournament against No. 6 seed Michigan Technological University at home at 6 p.m.

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