Ashland University didn't trademark the term "three-peat," but its No. 1-ranked women's basketball team pulled it off on Sunday (March 4) afternoon.
The Eagles held off Grand Valley State, 85-74, on Sunday to win their third consecutive Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship. Ashland (31-0), now on a 68-game winning streak, is the first GLIAC women's basketball program to win both five regular-season and five tournament titles in a seven-year period.
"Classic championship game. Grand Valley's a really good team," said Ashland head coach Robyn Fralick, now 99-2 at the Eagles' helm. "I'm proud of our team. I thought in the second half, we stuck with what we were doing, and we extended the lead."
This was the third consecutive season Ashland and GVSU (25-6) played for the GLIAC Tournament title at Kates Gymnasium. Sunday marked the fourth straight year the Eagles have played in the GLIAC Tournament title game, and the seventh time in the last eight years.
Since joining the GLIAC for the 1995-96 season, Ashland is 27-14 in the GLIAC Tournament, 19-1 at home. The Eagles and Lakers had split four previous GLIAC Tournament meetings.
The Eagles have won eight straight games over the Lakers overall. Ashland has defeated three consecutive conference opponents – Davenport, Northwood and GVSU – for the third time in 2017-18.
1. Senior forward Laina Snyder was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, and on Sunday, scored a game-high 27 points to go with five rebounds and three steals. Snyder became the second player in program history with at least 600 points in a season (606, Kari (Daugherty) Pickens 744 in 2011-12 and 670 in 2012-13).
"There's been good players. There's been good coaching, there's been good teams," Snyder said of the Eagles' conference success. "This program has always been a great program. The 2013 national-championship (team), they took it to another level. We came in, and we wanted to rise it back to that level, and beyond."
2. Sophomore guard Jodi Johnson and senior forward Andi Daugherty each made the All-GLIAC Tournament team. Johnson scored 21 points and collected seven rebounds, four assists and three steals on Sunday, while Daugherty went for 18 points and five assists. Johnson tied the program record for most free throws made in a season with 142, originally set by Sue Rupp in 1986-87, as the Eagles were 25-for-26 from the line as a team.
3. Trailing early 5-2, the Eagles reeled off seven straight points to take the lead. A 13-7 Ashland lead at the game's first media timeout was buoyed by forcing five Laker turnovers.
4. A 9-for-9 effort from the free-throw line helped the Eagles to a 21-18 lead after the first 10 minutes. Against a taller front line, Ashland also boasted a 10-4 rebounding advantage in the first period.
5. To start the second quarter, the Eagles slowly started to extend their lead, eventually working it to 33-24 inside of the seven-minute mark. The advantage was nine, at 35-26, at the second-quarter media stoppage.
6. The Lakers got momentum back out of the timeout, scoring six straight points. Ashland, however, led for the 30th time in 31 games this season at halftime, 39-35. While Grand Valley State hit seven 3-pointers in the first half, the Eagles overcame that by forcing 14 turnovers and scoring 12 points off of them.
7. With 4:36 left in the third quarter, the Eagles held a 53-45 lead, thanks to going 17-for-23 (73.9 percent) from inside the arc. Ashland got the lead to 57-47 outside of the three-minute mark, and by the end of the third, it was 64-55, as the overall field-goal percentage rose to 53.5.
8. Two Daugherty free throws just 66 seconds into the fourth after a Laker technical foul lifted Ashland to a 66-55 advantage, and two Johnson charity tosses extended the lead to 71-57 with 7:04 to play. The Eagles were 19-for-20 from the line at that point.
9. The Lakers cut their deficit to nine points, 73-64, outside of the five-minute mark, but couldn't get any closer.
10. For Grand Valley State, Natalie Koenig scored a team-high 20 points to go with five assists and five steals, while Cassidy Boensch added 19 points and five rebounds. Both were named to the All-Tournament Team.
The NCAA Division II women's basketball tournament selection show Sunday at 10 p.m. on NCAA.com, then the D-II Midwest Regional Tournament, March 9, 10 and 12.
2018 GLIAC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Most Valuable Player – Laina Snyder, Ashland
Jodi Johnson, Ashland
Andi Daugherty, Ashland
Cassidy Boensch, Grand Valley State
Natalie Koenig, Grand Valley State
Leah Humes, Ferris State
Karli Herrington, Northwood