Women’s Basketball Fall to Northern Michigan in First Round

Dean Paolucci, Reporter

The Ashland women’s basketball team was competing on a high note heading into Friday night of the NCAA Tournament, winning the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament for the fourth consecutive year against the Northern Michigan Wildcats. However, the cheers were cut short when the team came up short in the Midwest Region Quarterfinals at Drury University, falling to the Northern Michigan Wildcats 64-57, the same team they defeated in the GLIAC Championship.

The Eagles (29-3) had faced the Wildcats (24-9) two times this season prior to Friday night, with both matchups going to the Eagles.

“Congratulations to Northern Michigan,” head coach Kari Pickens said. “They put together a really good game and they are a great team.”

The Eagles started out the game with a six-point lead after one quarter of play, being up 15-9. The second quarter was rough for the Eagles, shooting 0-10 from the field and scoring only four point in the entire quarter, with all coming from the free-throw line. The Wildcats were able to take advantage and outscore the Eagles 15-4 in the fourth quarter, taking a 24-19 lead heading into halftime.

In the third quarter of play, the Wildcats continued to extend the lead and outscored the Eagles 18-16. Northern Michigan was able to shoot 58% from the field against the 40% of Ashland heading into the fourth quarter of a close game.

The fourth quarter, Ashland got down as many as 12 points with about three minutes remaining, but were able to cut it to a four point ball game with 1:04 on the game clock. Ashland was unable to complete the comeback, falling to the Wildcats with a final score of 64-57. The difference came at the free-throw line, with Northern Michigan going 12-14 from the line while Ashland went 0-2.

At the end of the game, the Eagles shot 36.8% from the field while going 8-18 from behind the three-point line, meanwhile the Wildcats shot 46.5% from the field and going 20-25 from the free throw line.

One bright spot for the Eagles was junior forward Sara Loomis, who put up a career-high 32 points. Loomis was able to score 10 straight points in a little under two minutes and cut the 12 point deficit to a 4 point deficit.

“Sara (Loomis) played phenomenal for us and I was really proud of her effort,” coach Pickens said. “I know she would she would have rather have taken a win, but what a fantastic last game to hopefully carry into an even better senior season.”

The win ends the players careers for both of the only two seniors of Ashland, guards Maddie Dackin and Brooke Smith.

During their careers, Dackin and Smith became the all-time winningest class in the entire Ashland program history, while also having a career 12-0 all-time in GLIAC Tournament games.

“That’s a testament to the their hard work,” coach Pickens said. “They bought into it here. They always were bought in, they always worked hard, they always put the team first and that is how they were able to have the seasons and careers they have had here at Ashland.”

For Northern Michigan, senior Darby Youngstrom and sophomore Lexi Smith both ended the game with a tie for the lead in points for the team, with both scoring 14 points a piece. Sophomore Elizabeth Lutz also had a good game, coming off the bench and scoring 10 points and two three-pointers in the game.