With five seconds left in the game and Ball State leading 87-80, senior forward Franko House came out of the game to roaring cheers from a packed crowd in Worthen Arena. House gave head coach James Whitford a big hug as he watched his team clinch a share of the Mid-American Conference West Division for the second consecutive year.
Before the game, House was joined with his parents, his fiancée and his son Carter to be recognized as one of the four seniors on the Ball State men's basketball team for Senior Night.
"His mom and dad, they should be incredibly proud of the man that they've raised because he's everything that you want in a student athlete," Whitford said. "The guy is just a complete stud."
House led the Cardinals with 22 points as Ball State (20-11, 11-7 MAC) defeated Northern Illinois 87-82 to become co-champions of the MAC West with Western Michigan. Eighteen of House's 22 points came in the second half, including his two 3-pointers.
"I started to figure out the flow of their defense and figure out where I could get buckets and where I could get gaps," House said. "I got a bunch of little buckets that I wasn't getting in the first half when I wasn't crashing the glass and being aggressive."
Franko House stats:
Total FG: 7-13
Three-point FG: 2-5
House has had five games this season in which he's made at least two 3-point field goals — the Cardinals have been victorious in all five of those games.
"Those threes put pressure on the big guys guarding me on the perimeter," House said. "It also was able to force their guys to have to close out on me and it opened up my ability to drive more."
Whitford said House's determination on and off the court has helped make him a leader for the Cardinals in his four-year tenure.
"I look at him as a father and as a human being and I can't tell you how proud I am of watching him do the little things as a dad," Whitford said. "In the summer, he'll wake up to feed his son at 6 a.m. and then come to the gym to get shots up — he's done it all."
With his 126th appearance in a Cardinals jersey tonight, House tied Mike Spicer for the most career games played by a Ball State men's basketball player. After going 12-48 in House's two first years at Ball State, the Cardinals have won 20 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1991-92 and 1992-93.
"It was rough my first two years but we just had to battle through it," House said. "The culture around here has gotten a lot better with guys working harder and seniors leading by example."
With the Cardinals clinching a bye in the MAC Tournament, those cheers House received as he checked out of the game with five seconds to play will be the final cheers he will receive as a player in Worthen Arena.