Men’s basketball team wins first GLIAC tournament championship

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AU Athletics

Men’s basketball team poses for photo after winning the GLIAC title.

Dean Paolucci, Reporter

 

In the final year of the Eagles being in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference, the Ashland University men’s basketball team was able to cut down the nets and proclaim themselves 2021 GLIAC Tournament Champions for the first time in program history.

The Eagles championship win came in a 85-77 battle in Hammond, Ind., against the Michigan Tech University Huskies on Sunday, March 7.

The Eagles (14-8), the number five seed in the tournament, entered the game red hot, winning two tournament games against the number four seed Ferris State University Bulldogs 100-85 and the number eight seed Saginaw Valley State Cardinals 83-57 over the weekend in Hammond.

“It was fun watching our guys celebrate and the hard work they put out and the comradery of them being able to celebrate work,” said head coach John Ellenwood. 

Leading the way for the Eagles on Sunday was redshirt senior guard Aaron Thompson who scored a new career high 32 points. Thompson, who received both All-GLIAC Second Team and All-Defensive Team selections in back-to-back seasons, also made an impact defensively, grabbing nine rebounds and three steals.

Along with Thompson leading the way for the Eagles was sophomore guard and GLIAC Tournament Most Valuable Player Brandon Haraway who scored 19 points. Haraway, who also received all-conference honors for All-GLIAC First Team and All-Defensive Team selections, also accumulated six rebounds and two steals. 

Redshirt senior guard Bo Furcron also was able to score 19 points, with three rebounds and two steals. 

“Aaron came out like a man possessed,” Ellenwood said. “He had 25 points in the first half.”

“Everybody else on the team; Brandon Haraway had an unbelievable weekend, Bo Furcron, and defensively Derek Koch did great all weekend.”

The Eagles as a team shot over 59 percent from the field, making six three-pointers and going 23 of 30 from the free throw line. While the Eagles tied the rebounding battle with the Huskies at 29 each, the Eagles did score 40 points in the paint and 18 points in fastbreak situations.

The Eagle defense also held the Huskies to 47 percent shooting on the day and 37 percent from beyond the three point line.

The Huskies (14-7), the three seed in the tournament, were led by junior guard and GLIAC Player of the Year Owen White who scored 33 points and made five three-pointers. Senior forward Trent Bell also racked up a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds on the day.

The Eagles tournament championship clinches an automatic berth to the Division II NCAA Tournament in the Midwest Region, where the team was ranked as a fifth seed out of six teams on Sunday night. The opponent the Eagles will face in the tournament is a GLIAC foe in the Wayne State University Warriors, who enter the tournament as a four seed in the region.

The Eagles and the Warriors have met two times this season, both matchups going in favor of the Warriors 58-50 on Jan. 26 and 64-60 on Feb. 16. The Warriors were also the regular season champions in the GLIAC with a record of 12-5 in conference play prior to the GLIAC Tournament.

“We are playing a team we are familiar with in Wayne State,” Ellenwood said. “Our guys are gonna be hungry, we blew two leads against them. They are a great team and they won our league. I think our guys are gonna be pumped up for the third time and hopefully the third time’s the charm.” 

The Eagles will face the Warriors in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the Midwest Region on Saturday, March 13, in Evansville, Ind., at 7:00 p.m. The game will be broadcasted over the radio on 88.9 WRDL or online at WRDLFM.com.