THE TURNING POINT: Ferris State's Zach Hankins converted a layup with 31 seconds left for what proved to be the game-winning points.
STAT OF THE GAME: Ashland played in its first-ever Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship game.
The No. 6-seeded Ashland University's men's basketball team showed it more than deserved to be in its first Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship game, but top-seed and host Ferris State scored four points in the final 61 seconds to take an 80-79 decision on Sunday (March 5) afternoon.
Ashland is 19-10, and will await word on a possible second consecutive spot in the NCAA Division II tournament, while the Bulldogs are 27-4 and will move on to the Midwest Regional next week.
The Eagles and Bulldogs were even at 16 before Ashland embarked on an 11-3 run. GLIAC men's basketball means there will be multiple runs, and eventually, Ferris State re-tied the game at 40 with 3:17 left until halftime, then again at 42 at the 2:44 mark.
Ashland led 46-44 going into halftime, and 47-45 early in the second half, but the Bulldogs' answer came in the form of back-to-back 3-pointers by Quentin Ruff. Following three tied scores, the game's ebb and flow returned.
Ferris State had a 63-57 lead on another Ruff triple, then led 67-61 prior to junior forward Marsalis Hamilton leading the Eagle charge back. Seven Hamilton points were the impetus to Ashland taking a 72-71 lead with 7:32 remaining, then sophomore guard Nick Bapst made it a 74-71 advantage with a pair of free throws.
Yet another Ruff 3 ended a 5-0 FSU spurt to put the Bulldogs back on top, but senior guard Boo Osborne responded with a triple of his own for a 77-76 Eagle advantage heading into the game's final three minutes.
Osborne's layup gave Ashland a 79-76 lead at the 1:49 mark, but Ferris State would score the game's final four points on a Drew Cushingberry layup with 1:01 to go, then a Zach Hankins layup for the deciding points with 31 seconds to play.
A last-second Eagle triple for the win was missed.
Hamilton scored a team-high 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field to go with nine rebounds and four assists. Sophomore guard Ben Haraway added 18 points and four helpers, and Bapst ended with 16 points. Osborne rounded out four Eagles in double-digit scoring with 11 points.
Osborne and Hamilton each were named to the all-tournament team.
Ashland shot 56.4 percent from the field and kept the Bulldogs to 42.5 percent, but Ferris State had a 42-30 rebounding advantage, to go with 18 second-chance points.
Ruff, the tournament's Most Valuable Player, ended the contest with a game-high 28 points, including seven 3-pointers. Hankins had 16 points, 12 boards and four assists.
UP NEXT: The NCAA Division II men's basketball postseason selection show on Sunday at 10:30 p.m.