THE TURNING POINT: Leading 63-58 with four minutes left in the game, Ashland outscored Grand Valley State, 14-4 the rest of the way.
STAT OF THE GAME: The Eagles have defeated the Lakers three times in a season for the first time in program history.
Six days ago, the No. 1-ranked Ashland University women's basketball team used a late-game run to overcome a deficit and beat Grand Valley State for the 2017 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship.
On Saturday (March 11) night in a 2017 NCAA Division II Midwest Regional semifinal at Kates Gymnasium, the top-ranked Eagles authored a similar game-ending run to pull away from the Lakers and win, 77-62. Ashland (33-0) will play No. 2 seed Drury (30-3) for the regional championship at home on Monday (March 13) at 7 p.m. It is AU's fourth appearance in the D-II Sweet 16 in the last six seasons.
"Grand Valley's a really good team. It's really hard to beat a good team three times (in a season)," said Ashland head coach Robyn Fralick. "That's this time of year. Everybody you play is going to be a great team.
"We knew from the last time we played that there's some things we needed to do differently. I thought our team did a great job of making those adjustments."
Ashland has tied the program record for most consecutive wins, originally set from Nov. 13, 2011-March 21, 2012. Saturday night's win also gives Ashland three wins over GVSU in one season for the first time in program history.
Junior forward Andi Daugherty collected her fourth double-double in six career games against the Lakers, going for 21 points and 10 rebounds and hitting 10-of-10 from the free-throw line.
"I think it's just coincidence," said Daugherty, who is averaging 17.5 points and 10.3 rebounds in six career games against GVSU. "We always seem to play them at the big times. I don't think it's anything in particular with them."
Daugherty also made her 100th consecutive start to begin her Eagle career on Saturday night.
Fellow junior forward Laina Snyder added 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, and six rebounds. Snyder has 1,491 career points, and has passed Vickie Schmitz for fourth place on Ashland's all-time scoring list.
"We changed the way we defended in the post," Snyder said. "That just made all the difference. Being able to come off of watching film from last game, the coaches just did a great job of seeing what we needed to do. We went out and executed."
Defensively, the Eagles came up with their second strong game in as many days. The Lakers turned the ball over 24 times, leading to 24 Ashland points, and GVSU shot 43.4 percent from the floor, including 33.3 percent in the pivotal fourth quarter.
Guard Janae Langs scored a team-high 16 points for the Lakers.
Ashland jumped out to a 12-3 lead, and that nine-point lead held up at the end of the first 10 minutes, 27-18, thanks to hitting 10-of-16 from the field.
The second quarter was a much different story, however.
Grand Valley State outscored the Eagles 15-7 in the second stanza, as the Lakers played defense to the tune of allowing Ashland to hit 2-of-14 shots from the floor. AU led 34-22 with 4:22 until halftime, but GVSU scored the first half's final 11 points, including a Langs triple at the buzzer.
Ashland clung to a 39-38 lead in the third quarter before scoring seven consecutive points. The back-and-forth play continued, but a pair of Daugherty charity tosses and a Snyder jumper lifted the Eagles to a 53-47 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles couldn't shake the Lakers for most of the final period, but their patented run to put a team away came at just the right time. A 14-4 surge in the final four minutes of the game put Ashland in the regional title game.
Ashland is 20-0 at home in 2016-17, tying the program record for the best home mark in any one season (2012-13). The Eagles have won 108 of their last 119 (.908) home games.
UP NEXT: Monday night's regional title game at home vs. Drury.