Ashland ready to face familiar foe in Elite Eight


Sue Ramsey and Cleve Wright have coached against each other since Gannon was in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Golden Knights left in 2008.

By Chris Bils

Ashland head coach Sue Ramsey and Gannon head coach Cleve Wright have known each other for a while. The two used to battle twice a year when Gannon was in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

“Yeah, long time,” Ramsey said. “I can’t even add up the years.”

Wright is in his 11th season at Gannon while Ramsey has been at Ashland for 18 years.

They also faced off earlier this season at the Disney Tip-Off in Anaheim, a game which the Eagles won, 70-59. There will be a lot more on the line than regular season wins and conference championships when they play 9:30 p.m. tonight in the Elite Eight in San Antonio.

Ashland is the only team that returns to this stage from last year, but that does not mean it is the only team with experience. Gannon (31-4) has been here two of the past four seasons.

This year’s Golden Knights are deep but inexperienced. Eleven of the 12 players on the team average double digit minutes, and the Golden Knights start two juniors and three sophomores, with a senior, two sophomores and three freshmen coming off the bench.

Junior forward Jennifer Papich is the leading scorer at 12.4 points per game and sophomore forward Nettie Blake is a force underneath that averages 11.3 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Balance is the key to Gannon basketball though. Sophomore guard Brittany Batts (11.1 ppg) is a 3-point specialist who shoots 44.4 percent (99 of 223), junior guard Kelley Sundberg ranks 12th in the nation in assists per game (5.3) and sophomore guard Doriyon Glass averages 7.2 ppg and 3.6 rpg.

It is sort of a mirror of what Ramsey preaches for her team as well.

“Her players play team basketball,” Wright said. “I know she calls that ‘AU basketball.’ I call that ‘GU basketball.’”

Gannon comes in ranked No. 7 in the country having won 10 of its last 11 games, with the only loss coming to Bloomsburg in the Pennsylvania Conference championship game. The Golden Knights got here by beating California (Pa.), 50-47, in the Atlantic Regional final.

“I have the upmost respect for a Cleve Wright team because you know they’re always gonna be disciplined, they’re going to execute the way that he’s taught them to, and that’s with perfection,” Ramsey said.

Ashland will look to combat that execution with that of its own in the half court and also by creating turnovers on the defensive end and looking to run. Gannon averages 19 turnovers a game, well above Ashland’s mark of 12.4, which ranks fifth in the country.

“The team that best executes their offense is the team that’s gonna win,” AU senior forward Kari Daugherty said.

Daugherty and senior forward Daiva Gerbec could provide Gannon with a kind of match-up problem it has only seen once before, the first time it played the Eagles.

“Very few teams that Gannon plays have two dominant posts like we do,” Ramsey said.

At the end of the night, one team will be headed to the Final Four while the other gets on a plane to go home. Both Ramsey and Wright want to win badly, but the respect for each other was unmatched during Monday’s press conference.

“It’s a great program run by a class coach,” Ramsey said. “It’s gonna be fun.”