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The Eagles Run Out of Gas in a Devastating Overtime Loss to #3 Ferris State

Justin Davis

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The Ashland University Men’s basketball team scratched, clawed and punched their way through a street fight against the Bulldogs of Ferris State University, but was not enough to knockdown the No. 3 ranked team in the nation.

“We fought like hell,” redshirt-senior forward Wendell Davis said. “I wouldn’t change anything but the last one-point-five seconds of it”

With 16 seconds left to play, Wendell Davis brought the ball down the court slowly with the game locked at 73-73, a Ferris State wing shadowed him at the three point line to force him into an uncomfortable shot, but Davis drove hard to the basket, drawing 3 defenders in to help, and dished a pass to sophomore center Drew Noble in the corner for a contest three pointer to give the Eagles a 76-73 lead with 1.5 seconds on the clock.

“I’m all about making the basketball play, that was the right basketball play, he hit a great shot and we thought it was over at that point,” Davis said.

The entire population of Kates Gymnasium erupted as it seemed as if the Eagles finally sealed the deal on a team they have not defeated since Dec. 5, 2015.

“That was one of the greatest feelings that we could’ve had, but that changed quickly,” Davis said.

Immediately a timeout is called by Ferris State Head Coach Andy Bronkema to discuss the plan for the last possession of regulation.

Junior wing Andrew Meachem lined up to inbound the ball and the Eagles, still on cloud nine after Noble’s three, were preparing to put the final touch on their upset victory.

“We just say keep it up front and if they heave on, they heave one in,” Ashland Head Coach John Ellenwood said.

Meachem snatched the ball from the ref and heaved the ball to senior wing Andrew Fralik, who caught the ball, turned toward the basket, and got off a desperation shot milliseconds before the buzzer went off that ricocheted off of the backboard and into the net.

Overtime.

The Eagles would not be able to maintain the intensity that kept them in control for most of the contest as Ferris State senior wing Noah King and senior point guard Drew Cushingberry would use 14 combined overtime points to give the Bulldogs the spark they needed to close the game at 97-91.
Ashland (16-8, 9-7) knew they had a tough tasks upon them against Ferris State (25-1,15-1) who stand alone at the top of the GLIAC led by 2017 All-American and Bevo Francis National Small College Player of the Year finalist junior center Zach Hankins.

“We had to attack them inside, its really tough because they have the nation’s best shot blocker,” Ellenwood said. “Trying to get him away from the bucket is like trying to pull a goalie in hockey or soccer from the goal.”

Hankins gave the Eagles trouble early on his way to a 17-point first half that included four rebounds and a block.

Foul trouble made Hankins ineffective as he would only add four more points to the scoreboard, four rebounds, and another block before fouling out with 2:52 left in overtime.

The Eagles relied on the ever-so-reliable Wendell Davis to steer the ship as the game would undergo 15 lead changes.

After only scoring a pedestrian six points in the first half, Davis caught fire scoring 17 points in the second half and another eight in overtime on behalf of his 3-point jumpshot that contributed five triples to the scoreboard on eight attempts.

“We made adjustments at halftime, I got a couple more open looks and I took a couple of risky shots and in games like this you have to have some type of impact on the game,” Davis said. “Especially being a leader and the player I am, I felt like I had to take a couple shots that I knew I could make.”

Davis was not alone in the fight, Drew Noble contributed 26 points while en route to taking the most three pointers he ever has in a game with the purple and gold going 3-for-10.

Ashland and Ferris State were nearly identical in shot efficiency, the Bulldogs shot 49.3 percent (33-67) from the field to the Eagles’ 49.2 percent (29-59), and although the Eagles made more three pointers and shot them more efficiency, the one-point free throw opportunities were the difference in the game.

Ferris State made 80 percent (24-30) of their free throw attempts which always prove to be vital in overtime contests when one point can be the difference between a win and a loss.

A crutch for the Eagles also was exposed in facing a team like Ferris State who have wells of springing depth from the depth while the Eagles heavily rely on their starters to provide wins.

“I saw it at the end of the first half we had a lead and it kind of evaporated,” Ellenwood said.

Ferris State had nine players that were on the court for 12 minutes or more, compared to six from the Eagles who also had three players contribute 40 plus minutes of in-game action while the Bulldogs’ leader in minutes peaked at 34.

“Me and ‘Sal came into the game and knew we were going to play 40 minutes,” Davis said.

Marsalis Hamilton, or ‘Sal, played 41 minutes on his way to a 16-point performance that included going 5-for-6 from the field, and 6-for-7 from the free throw line.

Even though he plays an exhausting amount of time on the floor, Davis does not use fatigue as an excuse for the loss.

“When you’re in a game like that, you don’t think about fatigue,” Davis said. “The only thing you think about is win or lose and win the next possession.”

This loss puts Ashland at a disadvantage as they have fallen from the top spot in the GLIAC south standing due to the losing four of their last six interconference contests.

“It creates adversity for us because we lost,” Ellenwood said.

The Eagles now sit at the number sixth spot in the conference which qualifies them for the tournament, but will make the road to a conference championship much more difficult.

Heart-wrenching losses like these can prove to be detrimental for the Eagles as they approach the last four games of the season, but Ellenwood views the team’s adversity as either a roadblock or a track block that can propel them forward.

“Adversity can go one of two ways: you a either pout and let it effect you, or it can make you a better man,” Ellenwood said. “Hopefully we’re a better man going on the road to Grand Valley and Purdue Northwest.”

The Eagles will gear up for another bout on the road as they will face Grand Valley State Thursday (Feb.15) at 6 p.m. in the Fieldhouse Arena.

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