Spring Arbor men's hoops celebrates NAIA national championship

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Spring Arbor celebrates its NAIA national championship.

There's a whole lot of good basketball being played in Michigan these days, and not just the Spartans and Wolverines.

For the second time in as many years, a lower-tier university from Michigan has claimed a national championship.

Spring Arbor University claimed its first National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics men's national championship Tuesday night , defeating Oregon Tech, 82-76, in Sioux Falls, S.D.

It comes on the heels of Ferris State's victory in the Division II tournament last year.

“It’s surreal right now,” Spring Arbor head coach Ryan Cottingham said. “You dream about this as a player and a coach and you never really think it’s going to happen. I’m at a loss for words right now, because this is a special group of young men, who love each other and play with great passion.

"We played at an incredibly high level these past five games, and we couldn’t even really soak it in because of how quick the turnaround was for each game. I knew these guys were champions before we even got here, but now we get to celebrate. Everything just clicked for us here in Sioux Falls.”

Paul Marandet dribbles on the perimeter for Spring Arbor.

Brandon Durnell, a sophomore forward from Fort Wayne, Ind., scored a career-high 32 in the championship victory, and added eight rebounds.

Junior guard Paul Marandet, from Warsaw, Ind., had 16 points and six assists, while junior forward Jeff Beckman, from Shelby, Mich., had 10 rebounds.

“I keep thinking back to a quote by Dabo Swinney after Clemson won the national title this year,” Durnell told reporters following the game. “He said, ‘No Hollywood producer could write a script like this, only God can.’ That’s really how we feel right now.”

Spring Arbor, located southwest of Jackson, is the first school from Michigan to win an NAIA men's basketball championship since Cornerstone in 2015.

Spring Arbor finishes 30-7, winning five tournament games in seven days.

In other state basketball news, the Division II men's bracket was released, with Grand Valley State, the surprise winner of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, earning a No. 8 seed and opening against No. 4 Southern Indiana (22-8) on Saturday. Grand Valley (19-12) features big man Isaiah Brock, a transfer from Division I Oakland.

On the women's side, Northern Michigan (22-9) and Grand Valley State (27-3) made the field, and have opening-round games Friday.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984