PHOTO CAPTION: Fans in Jim Wink Arena cheer on the Ferris State University Bulldogs, who are hosting their first NCAA Regional basketball tournament. Sunday, March 11 saw Ferris eliminate Lake Superior State University in the regional semifinal. The Bulldogs hope to advance to the Elite Eight, as they play the University of Findlay Tuesday evening, March 13, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
The NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament beginning on a spring break weekend did not disappoint on the basketball court or in the box office, as Ferris State University maintained its top seeding, and prepares to host the University of Findlay for the Midwest Regional championship on Tuesday night in Wink Arena.
Crowds of more than 2,000 fans settled in for games Saturday and Sunday, March 10 and 11, which included Ferris alumni attending from the area, and those visiting from across the state of Michigan, as the Bulldogs topped Ohio Dominican and Lake Superior State, respectively.
Former Ferris center and 1981 College of Education graduate Tom Lesko, of St. Clair, was on hand for Saturday’s 75-57 quarterfinal win over Ohio Dominican. He is an assistant coach at St. Clair High School, whose star wing player Ben Davidson committed last fall to join the Bulldog program. Lesko also visited Wink Arena and Big Rapids, in January, when the Tom Ludwig-era basketball teams were honored.
“Having a connection to both Ferris and Ben, that’s why I wanted to come this weekend,” Lesko said. “It’s been a great run for the Bulldogs. As I approach my retirement, from teaching and coaching, I am looking forward to following Ferris’ program more and more.”
Mike Mohnke, of Hungerford Lake, a 1981 College of Business graduate, continued his support of Ferris athletics by joining a group of friends in the stands. Mohnke, who volunteers as a sideline worker during football season, was pleased to be part of Saturday’s sizable crowd for the Ohio Dominican game.
“It reminds me of the games I saw in what was Ferris’ fieldhouse, as a child, when Jim Wink-coached teams would get into the NAIA District 23 tournament,” Mohnke said. “It has been great to enjoy the resurgence of Ferris State basketball in person.”
Former football All-American Chadd Richard, of Bay City, a 1995 graduate of Ferris’ Nursing program, was on hand for Sunday’s 94-71 victory over Lake Superior State in the regional semi-final. Richard’s son, Landon, played basketball for Bay City Central High, this season, where his father was a standout on the gridiron.
“I wanted to come support the Bulldogs,” Richard said. “We were checking out some of my teammates’ Hall of Fame plaques, in the lobby, which was great to take in as a family. Landon’s basketball banquet is set for Tuesday night, but we will be sure to stream the game.”
Joe Mikols, of Big Rapids, an emeritus of both The Ferris Foundation Board of Directors and the university’s Welding Engineering Technology faculty, said he was excited to take in NCAA tournament games along with the enjoyment from attending regular-season and Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament contests this season.
“I am really amped up by this opportunity,” Mikols said. “Having been a basketball season ticket holder for around five years means I have been able to see some really great athletes at this level.”
The Bulldogs will attempt to improve on respective all-time bests of 34 wins and 22 consecutive victories Tuesday, March 13, as they host the 28-4 Oilers at 7:30 p.m. The winner advances to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, which will be held at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota beginning on Tuesday, March 20.