THE TURNING POINT: Ashland outscored Tiffin 57-28 in a 24-minute span in the first and second halves.
STAT OF THE GAME: The Eagles have won at least 17 games in three consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98 to 1999-00.
In order to play host to a 2017 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal game, Ashland University's men's basketball team needed to beat Tiffin at home on Senior Night on Thursday (Feb. 23), and get quite a bit of help.
The Eagles did their part, defeating the Dragons, 78-67. Ashland needed at least three teams ahead of it in the conference standings to lose, which did not happen.
"This team, through the adversity that we had," said Ashland head coach John Ellenwood, "I'll take a regular season like that. We're one of the top teams in the GLIAC, and this is a very tough year in the league. We're very fortunate to be where we're at."
The Eagles have won 10 of their last 13 games to close out the regular year. Ashland is in the conference tournament for the third year in a row and the 13th time in its 22 seasons in the GLIAC.
Senior guard Adrian Cook had the type of game the Eagles have come to expect in the second half of the season, leading all scorers with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field.
"We had to hope, but we had to win this game first," Cook said. "We can go anywhere and beat anybody. We've just got to play."
"He's a winner," Ellenwood said. "He's one of the toughest kids I've ever coached. He did a great job, especially in the second half tonight, of kind of taking over. I'm going to miss him for sure."
Fellow senior guard Boo Osborne scored seven points and added eight rebounds, two assists and three blocked shots, and tied Jack Purtell for 23rd place on Ashland's all-time scoring list with 1,060 career points.
"Boo Osborne is the heart and soul of this team," said Ellenwood. "All around, he does a great job on both ends of the floor."
"Torin has been a great teammate to these guys, and he's having a great senior year. He's one of the top 3-point shooters in the conference," Ellenwood said. "And Mike Cain, just for him to be on this team. Before we went out tonight, he was a guy that couldn't leave the locker room because he loves this team so much."
Ashland had 17 assists to nine turnovers, and 13 of those helpers came in the second half.
For the Dragons, Khaleal McCormick and Juwan Johnson each scored 17 points.
Tiffin jumped out to an 11-2 lead, the last six of those Dragon points consecutive 3-point field goals by Johnson. That lead eventually grew to 31-17 with seven minutes to play before the break, but as is customary in the GLIAC, Ashland was able to put together a run of its own.
A 16-4 run, punctuated by a Wetzel triple in the closing seconds of the first half, allowed the Eagles to trail by just two points at 35-33 going into halftime.
Tiffin's latest lead in the second half was three minutes in at 40-39. Sophomore guard Nick Bapst's layup then gave the Eagles a lead they would not relinquish. By the time Ashland had a 74-59 lead with three minutes to play, it had outscored the Dragons 57-28 over a 24-minute span.
UP NEXT: Ashland will begin the GLIAC Tournament on Tuesday (Feb. 28) at Lake Superior State (16-9, 13-8). The Eagles are the No. 6 seed, the Lakers the No. 3 seed.