From Ashland University:
In baseball, starting pitchers win when they don’t have their best stuff.
In football, quarterbacks can rally for wins after throwing multiple interceptions.
On Monday (March 12) night at Kates Gymnasium in the 2018 NCAA Division II Midwest Regional championship game, No. 1-ranked Ashland University (34-0) staved off No. 3-ranked Drury (31-3), 79-73, despite 26 turnovers to go to its fourth Elite Eight in the last seven seasons.
“Wow,” said Ashland head coach Robyn Fralick, who is 100 games over .500 – 104 games into her career (102-2). “What a game. What a game. Drury is an incredible program. I think they played really hard. They play really together.
“It was a battle until the last second. I’m really proud of our team. We just kind of kept figuring it out. When they tied it, we just made a play and found a way to win against a really, really good team.”
Monday’s game was the rubber match in terms of recent Midwest Regional matchups at “The Kates.” On March 12, 2016, the Panthers prevailed in a semifinal, 86-60. On March 13, 2017, the Eagles won in the championship game, 74-62.
Overall, the Eagles have won 40 consecutive games at Kates Gymnasium, four shy of the program record of 44 set from Feb. 3, 2011-Nov. 9, 2013. The senior forward trio of Andi Daugherty, Laina Snyder and Julie Worley combined for a home record of 71-3 (.959).
“I love my team, I love this community and I love the fans,” Snyder said, “and I love to play at Kates. It’s a special place.”
Said Daugherty, “It’s hard for teams to come in here and not only win at Kates, but play well at Kates. Over the past four years, it’s been fun to see the crowds grow and interact with the community.”
Sophomore guard Jodi Johnson was named tournament Most Valuable Player after scoring a team-high 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting, and adding five rebounds, three assists and five steals. With 1,099 career points, Johnson has passed DeAndria Bethune into 17th place on Ashland’s all-time scoring list.
Snyder finished off an all-tournament team performance with 16 points, nine rebounds and four steals, becoming the program’s all-time steals leader with 364.
Sophomore guard Renee Stimpert chipped in with 15 points, three rebounds and seven assists, while Daugherty ended with 19 points (11-of-12 from the free-throw line), three boards, three steals, two blocks and two steals, and moved into third place on AU’s all-time rebounding list with 906.
The Eagles have won 71 consecutive games, the fifth-longest streak in NCAA basketball history, regardless of level and gender.
Ashland has the best NCAA Division II postseason winning percentage of any program with at least 25 games at .828 (24-5).
1. The start of the game was much to Ashland’s liking, as the Eagles scored the game’s first six points in 2:02 before Drury called a timeout. In that first 122 seconds, the Panthers turned the ball over four times – and attempted just one shot from the field.
2. Heading into the second quarter, Ashland led by a 25-18 count – thanks in large part to Snyder’s eight points and three steals. That lead also came about due to a 10-for-14 shooting performance, and nine Drury turnovers which resulted in 11 points.
3. At the second-quarter media timeout, the Eagles’ lead had been extended to 35-20. Drury came out of that break and chipped away at the deficit, eventually working it down to 37-33 as Ashland’s turnovers piled up. Stimpert, however, stopped that run with a triple, and that – along with an old-fashioned 3-point play by Johnson – spurred the Eagles to a 47-36 halftime lead.
4. In the game’s first 20 minutes, Ashland hit 62.1 percent from the field and made 6-of-7 from the foul line. While turning the ball over 14 times themselves, the Eagles forced 18 Panther miscues, and turned those into 24 points.
5. Ashland kept Drury at arm’s length in the first half of the third quarter, taking a 53-40 lead. Defense continued to be the catalyst, with 21 Panther turnovers minimizing their scoring opportunities.
6. Being a top-five team in D-II, Drury wasn’t about to go away, however, and again worked its deficit down, this time to 53-46 inside of the four-minute mark. Stimpert stopped that momentum yet again with a jumper, and Johnson once again turned in an and-one, en route to a 66-56 advantage heading into the final period.
7. Drury cut Ashland’s lead to 68-61 two minutes into the fourth, then 70-64 less than 30 seconds later, then 71-66 at the 6:25 mark. A Panther triple then made it a two-point game at 71-69, and a Drury layup tied the contest at 71.
8. Johnson put the Eagles back on top with a layup, but the Panthers re-tied the game at 73. With 1:57 to play in regulation, Snyder made both free throws for another AU lead, then Johnson came up with a steal 34 seconds later.
9. Needing another stop, the Eagles got one with 40 seconds to play. Then, with 11.7 seconds left, Daugherty stepped up after a foul and a technical foul to make all four free throws for the final margin of victory.
10. Drury was paced by all-tournament performer Hailey Diestelkamp, who scored a game-high 27 points to go with five rebounds and four assists on Monday night.
The 2018 NCAA Division II Elite Eight, starting March 19 in Sioux Falls, S.D. Opponent and ticket information will be released later.