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Determined Ferguson closing out Rio Grande career

RIO GRANDE — As a junior, Candace Ferguson broke her hand, not her spirit.

In fact, the broken hand that ended what was becoming a successful season only caused Ferguson to come back even stronger for her senior season.

“I was having a really good season and I break my hand and we started going downhill,” Ferguson said. “It gave me more drive. You never know when you’re going to get hurt. I really worked hard in the summer. I couldn’t wait to get back in the season.”

Rio Grande head coach David Smalley said Ferguson not only came back ready to play but more determined than ever before.

“Candace, over the course of her career, has started and progressed into a nice player and I think she would have a great season last year had she not missed six weeks with a broken hand, so she came in hungry,” Smalley said.

“Candace has come back this year with great confidence after that injury-plagued junior campaign. She has continued to work and improve her inside game and runs the floor extremely well.”

Ferguson, the former 6-foot All-Ohio center for the Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers, played in 20 games last season and averaged 8.8 points and 5.7 rebounds.

This season, Ferguson had appeared in all 28 games and is averaging 10.4 points and 4.9 rebounds. She is also shooting 48.5 percent from the field including 40.3 from 3-point range.

“In high school I was dominant inside. It was easy because I was so much bigger than the other players. Now I’m a smaller post player and I’m better facing up to the basket. I’ve shot the ball well,” Ferguson said.

“I love shooting outside. I like it better than inside.”

She scored a single game career-high 26 points this season and matched her career high of 10 rebounds.

Smalley said Ferguson not only has the size to play inside, but her outside shooting makes her a difficult matchup for guards.

“Candace can and was required to play effectively against bigger and more physical post players,” Smalley said.

“Arguably, she is one of our best three-point shooters and can consistently drain the medium range jumpers.”

Ferguson is third on the team in scoring as Rio Grande closes in on a 20-win season for the second time in her four-year career. The Redwomen are 18-10 including 10-6 in the American Mideast Conference South Division and tied with Malone for third place.

“It’s been a really good career. I’m really glad I came to Rio. I got my education paid for and I’ve had a great time,” Ferguson said.

“I like being close to home so my parents can see me play and in case I need something.”

Besides her success on the court, the Biology major who plans to become a dentist is headed toward a second straight year as an NAIA academic All-American.

“The academics are good and I like it because I know all my professors and they know all the students. If you have a problem, they’re more than happy to help you,” Ferguson said.

The Redwomen close out their home schedule at 6 p.m. today against first-place Cedarville.