The Ashland University men's basketball team dropped an absolute stunner to No. 3 Ferris State, 97-91, in overtime on Saturday (Feb. 10) afternoon in one of the most thrilling games Kates Gymnasium has ever seen.
After a timeout, Peter Firlik caught an inbounds pass 45 feet from the basket, turned and banked in a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
"It comes down to a half-court shot over three guys," said Noble. "I feel like against one of the best teams in the country to have that kind of outcome, we can take positives out of it."
The teams traded the lead three times in the extra period, but Ashland's last lead came with 2:52 to play after Noble split two free throws.
Noah King hit on a mid-range jumper on Ferris State's next possession, then scored the next seven points to take an 89-81 lead. The Bulldogs (25-1, 15-1 GLIAC) shot 15-for-17 (88 percent) from the line in overtime to steal the win.
"This was not the outcome we wanted today, but I think it's something where we're going to be playing our best basketball at the exact right time," said AU head coach John Ellenwood. "We need to keep pushing, we don't need to sit here and sulk about this thing. It hurts today, we'll go back to work tomorrow."
"It's a great group of guys, a resilient group of guys," said Noble. "This what we're coached to do – to battle and battle and battle and come back. Coach kept talking about getting over that hump. We'll play them again, we'll be back. It's a matter of getting over the hump next time."
The Eagles (16-8, 9-7 GLIAC) came out of the gates on fire Saturday, making their first nine shots from the field to take a 21-12 lead through seven minutes. Noble had 10 of his 26 points in that opening stretch.
The Bulldogs climbed back into the game and took their first lead, 26-25, on a 3-pointer by TyQuone Greer with 8:18 left in the half.
The teams then went back-and-forth, trading the lead until Ferris took a 37-31 lead into halftime by closing on a 7-0 run. Reigning GLIAC Player of the Year Zach Hankins recorded a three-point play to finish the half for FSU. He scored 17 of his team-leading 23 points in the first half and fouled out early in the overtime period.
The Eagles came out with the same firepower in the second half and tied the game at 39 with 15:53 to play. AU led by one, 50-49, with 11:41 left and then went on an 10-2 run with six points coming from Davis, who became just the second player in program history to have three 500-point seasons, joining the school's all-time leading scorer LeBron Gladden.
"We definitely came in ready to play today," Noble said. "We wanted this one bad. We knew it was going to take both halves and we couldn't give them a big run at the start of the second half."
Ashland led by 10 points with five minutes to play and still had an eight-point lead, 70-62, with 2:42 left, but the Bulldogs would not go away. Drew Cushingberry hit a 3-pointer, and after a turnover, Noah King hit two free throws to cut the margin to 70-67 with 2:31 left.
Noble stopped the run with a layup on a second-chance opportunity, but King came back and hit a 3-pointer off an offensive rebound to make it 72-70. Redshirt-junior guard Ben Haraway then split two free throws and Cushingberry's layup trimmed the lead to 73-72 with one minute left.
Ashland then committed a shot clock violation and Firlik split two free throws with 16 seconds left to tie the game and set up Ashland's final possession. Davis ran the clock down in isolation before kicking to Noble, who was open in the corner. The sophomore drained the trey in front of the Eagles' bench, sending the gym into hysteria that would only last until Firlik's heroics.
Davis led the Eagles with 31 points and eight rebounds, moving into third place on the program's all-time rebounding list with 749. He was 9-for-17 from the field and 5-for-8 from 3-point range in 44 minutes on Saturday.
Noble had 26 points and six rebounds. Junior forward Marsalis Hamilton had 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks for Ashland while Haraway added 11 points.
The Bulldogs had five players in double figures with King and Cushingberry each scoring 14 in support of Hankins' 23. Both teams shot 49 percent from the field.
The Eagles will now hit the road on Thursday (Feb. 15) for a 6 p.m. tip-off at Grand Valley State.