Ashland pulls away from Michigan Tech, will play for GLIAC title

By Chris Bils

The road to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship often goes through Michigan Tech, and Ashland did just that Saturday with an 81-68 win over the Huskies.

AU senior forward Kari Daugherty, fresh off of being named the GLIAC Player of the Year for the second season in a row, was spectacular. She had game highs of 33 points and 16 rebounds, including 10 points in the final 10 minutes to help the Eagles pull away.

She played 39 minutes, well up from the limited minutes she had been playing in her four games back since a left knee sprain kept her out for eight games.

“It feels good,” Daugherty said. “It was fun to be out there playing.”

Though Ashland (30-1, 21-1 GLIAC) got the last laugh, it was the Huskies (20-8, 17-5) who threw the first punch. Emma Veach and Sam Hoyt—both All-GLIAC selections—each hit 3-pointers in the opening two minutes to put MTU up 6-0.

Ashland struck back with a 15-2 run that was fueled by Daugherty and senior forward Daiva Gerbec inside.

Senior guard Linsday Tenyak also ignited the crowd with a 3-pointer and-one that gave the Eagles their first lead at 7-6.

Gerbec—who led Ashland with 21 points in Wednesday’s quarterfinal win over Northern Michigan—had 11 points on 4 of 5 shooting in the first half and finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

Ashland went inside early and often and was efficient in doing so. The Eagles scored 30 points inside the paint and shot 56 percent (28 of 50) from the field.

“They have to freshmen that were trying to guard two All-Americans,” AU head coach Sue Ramsey said. “We knew we could try to exploit that a little bit.”

As expected, Michigan Tech would not go quietly. The Huskies followed AU’s run with a 13-2 run of their own and took their largest lead at 21-17, but the Eagles bounced back and the game was back-and-forth until Daugherty drained two free throws to give AU a 41-38 lead at halftime.

Ashland burst out of the locker room and grabbed the momentum, widening its lead to 54-40 with 15:05 remaining on a pull-up jump shot by Daugherty.

The Huskies tried several times to mount a comeback, but found scoring difficult against Ashland’s suffocating defense. MTU shot just 24.2 percent (8 of 33) from the field in the second half and was held to 36.4 percent shooting for the game.

AU junior guard Alyssa Miller had the assignment of guarding Hoyt and held her to 6 of 20 shooting from the field and 17 points.

“I went back to last year’s game,” Miller said. “Hoyt had 30 points on me in regular season and I was mortified after that game so every time I play her I’m like, ‘She is not having 30.’”

Miller also had 10 points, eight assists and four rebounds.

The closest the Huskies came was within four points with 6:45 to play, but scores on back-to-back possessions by Daugherty to widen it to 68-59 kept them at bay.

Sophomore guard Taylor Woods put the nail in the coffin with 3:35 to play when she drained a 3-pointer to make it 71-59. She had 11 points on 3 of 5 shooting from behind the 3-point line.

The Eagles finished the game off by going 10 of 10 from the free throw line in the final three minutes. AU was 21 of 24 from the line on the afternoon.

“It’s always fun when we play them,” Ramsey said. “It’s two great basketball teams playing each other and playing basketball the way it should be played. We respect that to the tilt.”

Ashland will play Findlay for the GLIAC championship at 3 p.m. Sunday. The second-seeded Oilers defeated No. 3 seed Wayne State 67-60 in Saturday’s second game at Kates Gymnasium.

The game will be a rematch from when Findlay handed the Eagles their first loss in 49 regular season games, 66-51, on Feb. 14.

The last time the two teams met in Kates, Jan. 17, AU jumped out to 20-0 start on the way to a 72-41 victory.