Lakers look to avenge 131 Showdown loss to Bulldogs

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter
Senior Justin Ringler rushes to the basket during the last match up against Ferris State University

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter Senior Justin Ringler rushes to the basket during the last match up against Ferris State University

Brady Fredericksen

Ever since its loss to archrival Ferris State University in the 131 Showdown on Jan. 29, the Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team has not been quite the same.

The team had only three losses and healthy roster and planned to take a stranglehold on the GLIAC North Division with a win.

Things did not quite go as planned after the Lakers fell in overtime. GVSU has gone just 3-4 since and is only recently getting healthy for its season-finale and rematch with Ferris State on Saturday.

“We want revenge, but at the same time, this is the first step to where we want to get to,” said junior guard Wes Trammell, who scored eight points in the 131 Showdown. “We really do need this win, and as long as we take care of business, we still can get to the postseason.”

Those postseason chances have been questioned in recent weeks, but after the team’s upset of then-No. 3 Findlay, doubters have been silenced as the Lakers have risen back into the top-eight of the NCAA’s Midwest Region rankings.

“(Right now) we are definitely focused more on our own team,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley. “We need a win to keep our NCAA at-large bid hopes alive.”

Saturday’s game will prove important from both a win/loss and confidence point of view. The Lakers have proven that they can play with the conference contenders at home – shown by their 8-1 record against the GLIAC in the Fieldhouse Arena – but road struggles have followed the team all season.

“Any successes we’ve had have helped our confidence some,” Wesley said. “This will be a much tougher environment than any other road game we have had this year. The challenge of playing well against a tough opponent is something our team needs to embrace.”

Ferris’ star center Justin Keenan, the GLIAC’s Preseason Player of the Year, will be public enemy No. 1 again for the Lakers after going for 18 points and eight rebounds in second half of their last match-up.

Teaming with Keenan will be 3-point specialist Matt DeHart. The seniors combined for 45 points and 20 rebounds in that game.

“We’re focused on trying to have a good performance against a good team,” said junior guard Alvin Storrs, who missed all but four minutes of the 131 due to a concussion. “That’s what will prepare us to make a run deep in the post season.”

The absence of Storrs, junior center Nick Waddell and senior guard K’Len Morris loomed large not only in the Lakers’ loss to Ferris, but also during the team’s struggles in recent weeks.

The return of Storrs and Waddell has given the Lakers a boost during their most difficult stretch of the season. Since edging Lake Erie College on the road two weeks ago, GVSU has faced two of the top six teams in the Midwest Region. Meanwhile, white-hot Ferris, currently riding a 12-game winning streak, sits at No. 21 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches poll.

“Being injured early in the last game was disappointing because I wanted to help the team and was excited to do so,” said Storrs, who has recently eased back into the rotation. “It’s a big game because of their standing in the league, but anytime you get a chance to beat your rival, it’s that much more exciting.”

These Lakers look at Saturday’s game not only as an important game in the GVSU-Ferris rivalry, but also as a springboard for the postseason. A loss is not devastating to their tournament chances, but a win wraps up a successful regular season, albeit one with a few bumps along the way, and puts them right back in the hunt for a national title.

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