ALLENDALE, Mich. – Winning teams make winning plays at winning times.
The No. 6-ranked Ashland University women's basketball team made many winning plays down the stretch of a 77-61 win over Michigan Tech on Saturday (March 9) night in a 2019 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinal at Grand Valley State.
"It was a team effort," said Ashland head coach Kari Pickens. "We knocked down a ton of free throws at the end. I'm so proud of my girls for hitting those, and we're ready for a championship game tomorrow.
"I was really proud, particularly, of senior guard (Brooke Smith) coming off the bench. She came out, played phenomenal. Did exactly what we needed to do."
Ashland (28-2) moves on to its fifth consecutive GLIAC Tournament championship game, and will play in its 11th GLIAC Tournament title game overall, on Sunday (March 10) at 3 p.m. vs. Northern Michigan (22-8) at GVSU. The Wildcats knocked off the Lakers in Saturday's other semifinal, 47-38.
The Eagles are 29-14 all-time in the GLIAC Tournament, and 11-2 all-time in the semifinals. AU will take an 11-game winning streak in the conference tourney into Sunday afternoon's game, as it will look for a fourth consecutive tournament championship, and sixth in the last eight seasons.
THE TOP TEN
1. Junior guard/forward Jodi Johnson filled up the stat sheet in nearly playing all 40 minutes on Saturday, finishing with game-highs of 22 points, 13 rebounds and three steals. Her work on the glass was key to the Eagles out-rebounding the Huskies, 37-22.
"We actually said that we wanted to out-rebound them by 15, and we did," Pickens said.
2. Another junior, Renee Stimpert, ended with 12 points and six assists. And both junior forward Karlee Pireu and Smith finished the night with 10 points. In all, seven Eagles scored at least six points.
3. Ashland finished the game shooting 49.1 percent from the field, and made at least 50 percent in three of four quarters. The Eagles also made 16-of-19 from the charity stripe, including 13-of-15 in the second half.
4. Defensively, AU kept Tech to 41.2-percent shooting overall, and that number was 30.8 percent in the final two quarters.
"Our defense in the second half was a complete game-changer," Pickens said.
5. The turnover battle was a key one, as well, with Ashland making 14 miscues (26 in the first meeting on Jan. 3 at home) and the Huskies coughing the ball up 16 times, resulting in 19 Eagle points.
6. Good shooting on both sides (Tech 5-for-7, AU 5-for-8) resulted in an 11-all tie at the first-quarter media timeout. Ashland, however, finished the period on a 10-2 run, combining stellar offense and defense, to take a 21-13 lead into the second stanza.
7. The Eagles extended their lead at the second-quarter media timeout to 32-20, and rebounding (15-7 advantage) and defense (seven turnovers into nine points) were two of the main reasons for that. The AU advantage was 34-20, but that's when Tech mounted its late first-half comeback – an 11-0 run to make it a 34-31 game at the break.
8. Heading toward the third-quarter media stoppage, the Huskies led 43-39, but back-to-back layups from Smith and junior guard/forward Sarah Hart forced a Tech timeout at 47-39 with 5:04 left in the period. MTU cut its deficit to 49-42, but the Eagles kept Tech at bay, and going into the fourth, it was a 56-46 lead.
9. The fourth quarter saw Ashland do what winning teams do down the stretch of victories – hit 6-of-9 shots from the floor, keep Tech to 3-of-11 from the field and make 7-of-8 shots from the free-throw line.
"When we're getting opportunities to go to the line, we've got to make the most of them," Johnson said. "Throughout the whole game, it's going to be a battle. We've got to take advantage of our opportunities down the stretch."
10. For the Huskies (21-9), Cassidy Trotter led the way with 21 points, while Ellie Mackay added 13 points.