Northern State was riding a perfect 7-0 record in the Sanford Pentagon entering the D2 Men's Basketball national title game, while Ferris State was looking for their 26th consecutive victory. While both streaks were feats of great play, one had to end in heartbreak while the other ended with eternal collegiate glory.
After a first half that ended with a 16-8 run to put Ferris ahead by two at the break 39-37, both teams continued to fight all the way to the climactic finish and a victory for the Bulldogs by a final score of 71-69 behind a final minute of play that saw a huge replay for possession, a waved free throw for lane infraction and a missed potential winner at the buzzer from Northern.
For Ferris, this marks their first title in program history as both teams were making their first appearance in the title match. Each side were also part of history in marking the most wins for two teams to make the D2 national championship with both programs combining for 73 wins altogether.
This is also the first time a team from Michigan has won the D2 title, and it marks the first team title for Ferris State in their athletic history.
The story of the game was interior play for both sides, with each side attempting under eight three point shots in the contest, resulting in a majority of points coming from the paint. In fact, 14 of the first 17 points scored by the Wolves of NSU were from the paint, and they did not make their first and only three pointer until under 1:30 to go in the first half.
The victorious Bulldogs, led by National Player of The Year Zach Hankins, scored 46 of their total 71 points (64.7%) inside the arc with another 16 from the charity stripe, including the icing bucket from Markese Mayfield that forced a potential winning three pointer from the Wolves.
But away from the scoring, the pressure from the Ferris defense wore down NSU as the game went on, forcing multiple turnovers in the backcourt while using a full-court press, and also capitalizing on legs that had just come off a double-overtime thriller to reach the title game.
The 38th win of the year marks the most for a single season in D2 history, tied with Winona State from 2008 when the Warriors went a similar 38-1 to win the title.
But the most important stat is that Ferris was able to continue their winning streak, reaching 26 after entering at 25. That one win resulted in not just another stat to enter the next season, but a trophy to hold for all of time.