The goal at the beginning of the season wasn’t to just share the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference North Division Championship; the Bulldogs sought an outright back-to-back championship.
“I’m not too fond of sharing it, but we were still able to get it after three losses in a row,” Ferris senior guard Dontae Molden said. “That’s a goal we still got accomplished, it’s just not exactly how we wanted to do it, but we still got it done.”
The Bulldogs’ share of the championship relied on defeating their rival Grand Valley State University. To the Bulldogs’ relief, Ferris vanquished Grand Valley 63-56 in the Wink Arena Feb. 25. Ferris now shares the GLIAC North Division championship with Michigan Tech and Northwood University.
The last time the Bulldogs won a back-to-back GLIAC North Division Championship was from 2003-05.
“It was good being able to get [a championship] with two different groups,” Molden said.
The Bulldogs had a chance at winning the championship outright, had they defeated South Division Champion Hillsdale Feb. 22 at Jim Wink Arena. But Hillsdale survived through overtime, defeating the Bulldogs 84-83.
Ferris fought back from a 17-point deficit after the conclusion of the first half. Then the Bulldogs went on to erase a five-point Charger lead in the final 10 seconds of the game, nearly defeating Hillsdale.
Hillsdale led by four with 23 seconds left in regulation when junior Bulldog guard Kenny Brown drained a three with eight seconds to play. Ferris intentionally fouled Hillsdale’s senior forward Brad Guinane after Hillsdale inbounded the ball. Guinane made the first free throw and missed the second. Brown connected on a long jumper near the three-point arc as time expired.
As fans rushed the floor thinking Brown had hit a three and sent Hillsdale home winless, the referees reviewed the play and determined that the shot was worth only two points, which forced overtime instead.
Ferris jumped to a five-point lead in overtime, but Hillsdale managed to make a free throw and a three-point shot before the Chargers finished Ferris with a layup by Guinane.
Ferris got the ball inside to junior forward Daniel Sutherlin in the final seconds, only for his shot to misfire while he was fouled. No foul call was made and Hillsdale defeated Ferris.
“We played as hard as we could. Ultimately, the refs decide the game and that’s exactly what happened there,” Molden said. “He decided not to call the foul and we lost.”
The Bulldogs finished 13-6 in the GLIAC and 16-10 overall.
Now the Bulldogs are the fifth-seeded team in the GLIAC Tournament. Ferris will face fourth-seeded Michigan Tech in the GLIAC Quarterfinals in Houghton at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 29.
Michigan Tech has defeated Ferris in both meetings between the two teams this season. The Bulldogs will try to slow down Michigan Tech’s junior forward Ali Haidar. Haidar is averaging 19 points and 9 rebounds a game.
“They say it’s hard to beat a team three times,Ferris will also attempt to keep Michigan Tech’s shooters, Alex Culy and Mike Hojnacki, from shooting a high percentage. Culy has made 45.1 percent from three-point range this season. Hojnacki, Michigan Tech’s second-best high volume shooter, has made 39.5 percent behind the three-point arc this year.