Eagles soar to second-straight GLIAC championship

By Chris Bils

Second-ranked Ashland won its second straight Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference women’s basketball tournament championship and avenged its only loss of the season with a 68-49 blowout win over No. 19 Findlay on Sunday at Kates Gymnasium.

The Eagles (31-1, 21-1) opened the game on a 17-5 run and used a 17-4 spurt out of halftime to open up a 27-point advantage and put the game out of reach before the midway point of the second half.

Ashland’s defense was the story though, holding the conference’s second-highest scoring team to 30.6 percent shooting (15 of 49) and fourth-leading scorer Kayla Brown to 13 points.

“We’re on this journey and we haven’t peaked yet,” AU head coach Sue Ramsey said. “This whole tournament I felt our defense really locked down.”

Senior forward Daiva Gerbec led the Eagles with 18 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and three blocks. She was named to the all-tournament team along with junior guard Alyssa Miller (nine points, six rebounds and four assists), Findlay’s Brown, Wayne State’s Juanita Cochran and Michigan Tech’s Sam Hoyt.

Ashland senior forward Kari Daugherty had 17 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

The Eagles started the game on fire, with four different players draining 3-pointers in the opening three minutes. At that point, AU had already made more “3s” than it did in a 66-51 loss at Findlay on Feb. 14.

“We really studied what we wanted to do and when it comes down to it you get the ball where you want it to be and you shoot the ball with confidence,” Ramsey said.

Ashland cooled off after its initial run, but not as much as the Oilers would have liked.

Senior guard Lindsay Tenyak made three 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 11 points and three assists.

A 3-pointer by sophomore guard Taylor Woods at the halftime buzzer made it 40-26 and the Eagles carried shooting percentages of 46.4 percent (13 of 28) from the field, 53.8 percent (7 of 13) from deep and 77.8 percent (7 of 9) percent from the free throw line into the locker room.

Woods stayed aggressive out of halftime, dishing out five assists in the run that put the game out of reach. She finished with 11 points, a game-high 10 assists and five rebounds.

“There were just a lot of gaps in their defense and I just thought the posts did a good job of spacing,” Woods said. “If I would drive, someone would come over and help and I was able to dish it off to (Gerbec and Daugherty) a lot.”

Sophomore forward Melanie Poorman was productive off the bench. She had five rebounds and drained a jumper in the second half that got her teammates excited and brought the 1,818 fans up out of their seats.

“We all started cheering, yeah because she got a rebound or she made a shot, but we were so excited for her to do so well,” Daugherty said.

The Eagles overcame giving up eight offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes and outrebounded the Oilers 21-19 in the second half, but still surrendered a 39-38 edge on the glass for just the third time all season.

Ramsey felt seeing Findlay in the championship was good for the GLIAC and said the Oilers’ effort was better than the score line showed.

“It’s kind of a tribute to the South (Division),” she said.

The Oilers will join top-seeded Ashland as the No. 2 seed at next week’s Midwest Regional tournament, which will be held for the second straight year at Kates Gymnasium.

Joining Ashland and Findlay will be Indianapolis, Kentucky Wesleyan, Michigan Tech, Wayne State, Lewis and Wisconsin-Parkside.

The first round games will take place Friday and Ashland will play Indianapolis and the winner of that game will face the winner of Kentucky Wesleyan and Michigan Tech on Saturday.