MARQUETTE - First-year Northern Michigan University men's basketball coach Bill Sall used the word "bizarre" in his post-game press conference Saturday.
But it wasn't used to describe how his current team - the Wildcats - defeated his former team - the Ferris State Bulldogs - 61-59 in GLIAC play at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
"Bizarre" was used by Sall to describe the feeling of beating a school he had spent 11 years at that is now coached by an assistant who worked under Sall the previous six seasons as an assistant in Andy Bronkema.
"I'd love to say it was just another game, but obviously it wasn't," Sall said. "It's kind of a tough feeling.
"Andy is a good friend. It's just kind of bizarre. I've never really had where you're coaching against someone you really know. There's a little bit of melancholy there."
The Wildcats (4-10 overall, 3-7 in GLIAC) won the game in the final 37.5 seconds on a spread play gone wrong.
Northern Michigan University head coach Bill Sall, left, yells out instructions to his players Saturday during a GLIAC game against his former team, Ferris State University, at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Sall’s Wildcats won, 61-59. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
As described by Sall, NMU junior guard Ethan Blackwell was supposed to drive into the paint and kick the ball to junior forward Chavis Mattison or the opposite side.
Instead, the Bulldogs (6-8, 5-5) hedged on the Wildcats' screen and Blackwell was forced to take a back-up 3-pointer with about 15 seconds to play.
The shot bounced off the front of the rim and into the arms of Mattison. He was able to wrestle the ball away from two Bulldogs and float in the game-winning basket with 10.7 seconds left.
Ferris quickly got down the floor for a game-tying shot, but could only muster a desperation heave in packed-paint that fell short, allowing NMU to snap a three-game losing streak.
"With time running out, it was a crazy situation," Mattison said. "The ball was loose and I just grabbed it, pump-faked once and went straight up with it.
"I knew the clock was going down pretty fast, so I made a quick decision and put it up."
Northern jumped out to a 12-4 lead on Ferris, but needed a bucket by freshman guard Marcus Hall eight seconds before halftime to nab a 32-30 advantage at the break.
A 3-pointer by freshman guard Wade Schetter out of Carney-Nadeau put NMU up 50-40 with 10:30 to play, but FSU was able to fight back and tie the game at 55-55 with 2:30 to play.
Mattison finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, including seven defensive boards.
Hall scored a team-high 17 points for the Wildcats and junior forward Justin Newell came off the bench to total 10 points for Northern.
Blackwell, who also came off the bench, led NMU with seven assists.
"Chavis did a great job hustling to the basket and he got a great shot to get us a two-point lead," Sall said.
"I was really happy with how we played today. I thought we executed a lot of stuff. I thought with 16 assists, that's the best we've done this year distributing the ball, sharing the ball."
Ferris State, which beat NMU in 11-straight with Sall as head coach, received a team-high 17 points from junior forward Matt Poches.
Gwinn native and FSU sophomore guard/forward Matt Sinnaeve was suited up Saturday, but didn't get into the game for the Bulldogs.