The Ashland University men's basketball team made crucial plays down the stretch as they closed out a 68-64 win over visiting Parkside on Saturday (Feb. 16) afternoon at Kates Gymnaisum.
The Eagles (21-4, 13-4 GLIAC), ranked No. 20 in the NABC Division II coaches' poll, remain in second place in the GLIAC standings, but moved closer to clinching a home game in the GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal.
On Saturday, the Eagles led the Rangers (12-11, 10-7 GLIAC) for much of the contest, but were never able to put the game away.
Parkside came back from a 12-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 55 with just under six minutes remaining.
The Eagles then made two clutch hustle plays to regain the lead. After a missed free throw by Ashland, junior center Drew Noble made a diving save on the sideline to keep the ball in play. The deflection went to junior guard Rodrick Caldwell, who dropped it off for senior guard Ben Haraway. Haraway dropped in a 3-pointer to give the Eagles a 58-55 lead.
"I saw where the ball was going and there was only one way I was going to get to it," said Noble. "There was no harm in just throwing it back near our basket. It was one of those plays in the moment."
"It was great hustle by Drew and I was feeling good from the 3-point line," said Haraway. "It was nice to have wide-open three, no one was around me, so it was good to get into a rhythm."
Both teams then got stops on the defensive end before senior guard Phil Frentsos jumped a passing lane at the top of the key and converted a layup in transition to make it 60-55.
"They were coming off the down screen over and over again and I felt like I could get my hand in one of the passing lanes," Frentsos said.
With a minute left, the Eagles had their lead knocked down to 62-61, but Noble fended off a defender and hit a short jumper to push the advantage to 64-61.
Chavares Flanigan made a layup on the other end before Haraway split a pair of free throws to make it 65-63 with 23 seconds remaining.
The Eagles then forced a turnover to get the ball back with Haraway splitting two more free throws. Ashland committed a foul intentionally on the next possession to make sure the Rangers did not hit a 3-pointer. Flanigan made the first free throw and missed the second intentionally, but Haraway collected the rebound and hit two free throws to seal the win.
In the first half, the Eagles maintained a 22-21 lead before Caldwell and Haraway combined for the next five points. Ashland wound up closing the half on a 17-6 run over the last six minutes to take a 39-27 lead into the break.
"Ben hit some big shots for us," said head coach John Ellenwood. "We got some transition buckets there and we got downhill to control the tempo."
Noble led the Eagles with 25 points and eight rebounds in 37 minutes. He was 11-for-18 from the field. Haraway had 15 points and four rebounds while Frentsos scored 14 points with three rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Redshirt-sophomore wing Aaron Thompson had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, playing all 40 minutes. Caldwell had four points and dished out six assists.
Ashland shot 50 percent (26-for-52) from the floor and 44 percent (7-for-16) from 3-point range. The Eagles struggled at the free throw line, going 9-for-22 (41 percent).
Flanigan nearly had a triple-double with 20 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Adam Bonk hit four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points.
The Eagles will hit the road for a two-game swing beginning Thursday (Feb. 21) at 8 p.m. against Northwood.