The Tigers lost a close game on Tuesday night to Ferris State University (NCAA II) by a score of 76-73 at FSU’s Jim Wink Arena, but in the eyes of their coaches their young charges have grown immensely in the three games since their loss to Calvin College last Friday night. “We never enjoy losing,” said Head Coach Gary Bailey after Tuesday’s close loss, “but our goal at this stage of the season is to get better every game. We have done that with the two wins on Saturday and Monday, and then the game against FSU tonight. I’m very proud of our team.” Assistant Coach Dan George echoed Bailey’s comments. “I was extremely pleased with the defensive effort against a bigger, athletic team. The guys are developing that chemistry that makes champions, playing selflessly and being very coachable.”
With four games in five days it could be expected that the young Tigers would be a little flat in a road game against a strong NCAA DII team, and they did start slowly. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 9-2 lead to begin the game on the sharpshooting of sophomore Drew Lehman but the Tigers scored the next six points to pull within one and took their first lead at the 10:32 mark of the first half, 17-15, on a jumper by freshman BJ VanLoo (Hudsonville). FSU switched defenses and the Grace offense sputtered long enough for the Bulldogs to jump out to a 30-20 lead, but the gritty Tigers fought back with seven straight points by senior Greg Salmon (Wayland) on two layups and a three pointer followed by a three by sophomore Brad Rosenzwieg (Forest Hills Eastern) to tie the score at 30-30 with 48 seconds left in the first half. Lehman’s layup 20 seconds later put FSU in front at the half 32-30.
The second half was back and forth with several lead changes and neither team lead by more than five points until a pair of FSU free throws put the Bulldogs up by 8 with 8:31 left in the game. FSU maintained the eight point advantage for almost two minutes until another three by Rosenzwieg, a steal and a layup by senior Zach Schutte (Calvin Christian), and another three by BJ VanLoo tied the score at 60-60. A steal by sophomore Jake Blauwkamp (Grandville) who led Zach Schutte with a perfect pass for a dunk completed a Tiger 10-0 run to put Grace in front 62-60 with 5:00 minutes left in the game and forced an FSU time out. The last five minutes saw each team lead by only one or two points until a pair of Lehman free throws put FSU up 74-70 with 22 seconds left. A three pointer by Zach Schutte with 12 seconds left brought the Tigers within one but they were forced to foul Lehman who again hit both free throws for the margin of victory. A desperation three point attempt by the Tigers with 5 seconds left fell short.
An indication of the tightness of the game was the 16 lead changes and 12 tied scores. FSU held a 38-31 advantage on the boards and hit 16 of 22 free throws. The Tigers hit all 8 of their free throw attempts and hit 45.9% of their shots including 40.9% from beyond the arc. FSU shot 42.6% and 36.4% from three point range. Lehman led the Bulldogs with 26 points. Zach Schutte led the Tigers with 17 points and Greg Salmon added 11. Salmon and junior Nick Mascorro (TriUnity Christian) led the team with 5 rebounds each. Rosenzwieg led the Tigers with 4 assists.
The Tigers are off for more than a week to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with their families. They are back in action on Thursday, November 29 when they face NCCAA II regional foe Maranatha Baptist in Lansing at the Midwest Tipoff Tournament at Great Lakes Christian College. Game time is 6 pm.