Eagles are headed back to the Final Four


Bree Gannon

Noah Cloonan

The Ashland University Eagles are on the verge of making more history.

The Eagles are just 40-minutes away from back-to-back perfect seasons after defeating Indiana University of Pennsylvania 92-68 to punch their ticket back into the title game.

It was a perfect storm from start to finish for the Eagles as they trailed for just 26 seconds at the beginning of the game but quickly turned it back around and started to pull away.

IUP took a 6-4 lead with 8:30 left in the first quarter and they were able to keep the game close until the the 5:34 mark in the first.

Carolyn Appleby hit a three to cut the Ashland lead to 14-13, but that is as close as they would get.

Ashland turned up the defensive pressure and they did not allow another made field goal in the first quarter. AU used this to turn a one-point lead to an 11-point lead in the blink of an eye.

The Eagles led 26-15 at the end of one and it was a sign of things to come for AU.

With still more than eight minutes left in the second quarter, national player of the year, Jodi Johnson picked up her third foul and had to head to the bench.

The Eagles did not skip a beat.

Brooke Smith came in and personified one of Ashland’s greatest strengths, depth.

She came into the game and immediately sparked the defense and helped Ashland increase their lead to as much as 17 in the quarter after a big three with 2:16 left to play.

“I was really proud of Brooke coming in and filling her spot. It was unfortunate that Jodi got in foul trouble but I think that’s a strength of this team, is every single person we put on the court is an excellent basketball player,” Andi Daugherty said. “So while it was unfortunate to lose the national player of the year, I had confidence in anyone coming in to take her spot.”

IUP called a timeout and regrouped before the half cutting it back to 42-30 at the break.

The Crimson Hawks had weathered the storm for the first half, but little did they know that there was a hurricane waiting for them on the other side of the break.

Starting the second half, the Eagles tried to put the game away and succeeded. It only took four minutes for Ashland to push the lead to 20 and it wasn’t long until they began to push that lead even further.

With under a minute and a half to play in the third, Daugherty took over. She scored on three straight Ashland possessions to push the lead to 70-51 at the end of the third.

IUP did not have an answer in the fourth quarter and Ashland cruised to a 92-68 win.
The 92 points allowed by IUP were their most in a game this season.

“I just got to give a lot of credit to them and I thought it was a great game,” head coach Robyn Fralick said. “I thought we played really well. It felt like we were hitting on all cylinders.”

Laina Snyder showed up to play and put forth a career night. Snyder had 23 points, 20 rebounds and six assists to pace the Eagles.

“Well, I missed a lot of shots, so I got to get my rebound offense a lot, but I also knew that I could get those rebounds because that’s a place where we could really dominate them,” Snyder said. “We watched them play a couple of nights ago and that’s an area where the team that they beat actually beat them and that was the one category they did. So we knew we needed to capitalize.”

Bree Gannon

Daugherty was sensational as well finishing with 21 points and seven rebounds while Johnson had 14 points, six rebounds and five assists in just 26 minutes.

Daugherty joined Snyder as the second Eagle player to reach the 2,000 point plateau this season.

“My senior class has played a lot of games and we’ve gotten on some really good teams, so both Laina and I having the opportunity to score 2,000 points, and Julie 1,000 point, I don’t know if that’s ever been done in the senior class, scoring that many points,” Daugherty said.

One of the keys coming into the game for Ashland was to limit the Crimson Hawks leading scorer Megan Smith and they did exactly that. She scored the first bucket of the game for IUP but then the Eagles held her scoreless until the 2:01 mark left in the third quarter.

In the end, Smith finished with 21 points but many of them came when the outcome of the game was already decided.

Appleby chipped in 17 points and Brittany Robinson added 14 for the Crimson Hawks who finished 30-4 on the season.

The Eagles have now won 73 games in a row and would be the first team in Division II to finish back-to-back perfect seasons.

Ashland will have a day off before they compete for their second straight national championship on Friday.

The Eagles will take on No. 10 Central Missouri at 7 p.m. CST/ 8 p.m. EST on Friday.

“That will be Laina, I, and Julie’s last game, which is sad but as she said, there’s no other way we would want to go out,” Daugherty said.