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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Eagles secure home victory over Thomas More Saints in GMAC semifinal clash

They will move on to the GMAC finals to take on either the Malone Pioneers or the Trevecca Nazarene Trojans
Ben Nichols
Eagle guard Macy Spielman rejoices with her teammates Annie Roshak and Hayley Smith after a basket is scored.

The Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC) runs through Kates Gymnasium.

On Friday, March 8, the Ashland University women’s basketball team stormed past the Thomas More Saints in a confident 67-56 win. The 51st straight victory for the Eagles in conference play came in the semifinal round of the GMAC tournament.

In the opening quarter of play, the Eagle offense sputtered as they attempted to end previously-found offensive struggles.

Against the Findlay Oilers in both the regular season finale and the GMAC quarter-final round, the team shot under the season average at 40% and 39.7% respectively.

Through the first 10 minutes of action, the Eagles remained in their shooting slump as they shot just three of 15 from the field for just eight points. The team’s eight points would not be enough to possess a lead heading into the second quarter, as the Saints led by six points, 14-8.

To kick off the second quarter, Head Coach Kari Pickens deployed a lineup of Morgan Yoder, Macy Spielman, Lexi Howe, Sarah McKee and Zoe Miller to light a spark offensively.

A spark would turn into a flame, and the Eagle offense would be ignited.

Quickly, Spielman would dice her way into the paint for two points, followed by another basket from Howe to bring the outing within two points.

With the scoreline sitting, 14-12, Pickens made two critical substitutions, bringing in veteran guard Erin Daniels and forward Annie Roshak.

Daniels came into the contest and instantly knocked down a three-pointer, giving the Eagles a 15-14 lead and their seventh straight points.

Just after the shot was made by Daniels, Roshak would find one herself on the next possession to extend the Eeagles’ advantage to four.

The remainder of the first half would be spotlighted by countless three-pointers from the Eagles, including one a piece from the guard duo of Yoder and Savaya Brockington. As the opening 20 minutes came to a completion, the Eagles comfortably sat with a 27-18 edge while allowing just four points in the second quarter.

“Defensively, I thought we played great,” said Coach Pickens. “We had some slip-ups, but that second quarter we played extremely well on both sides of the ball.”

At the halftime break, the Eagles were led by six points from Brockington while Roshak sat with five points and five rebounds. Although they led, the team as a whole struggled from the field, shooting just 33%.

On the Saints side of things, guard Maggie Jones led the charge offensively as she recorded eight points on five shots.

However, just like the Eagles, they too struggled to find their footing while shooting the basketball. As a team, they made just six shots in the first half for a measly 24%. From beyond the arc, the Saints sat with just two makes on eleven attempts through the opening 20 minutes of play.

Coming out of the break, the Eagles continued their run where they left off.

With just five minutes gone by, Daniels, Brockington and forward Hayley Smith would all hit three-pointers as the rest of the team scored four points to give the Eagles a strong start to the second half.

The Eagles led 40-26 as the third quarter approached its final minutes.

For the Saints, they would take a timeout to halt the Eagles’ run, outscoring them 12-5 over the next five minutes of play.

Even with the struggles down the stretch of the third stanza, the Eagles still recorded their best quarter of the contest offensively as they shot 54% from the field and 57% from beyond the perimeter.

Heading into the final 10 minutes of action, the Eagles led 45-38.

In the opening 40 seconds, the Saints would find five quick points from forward Madison Vickers and forward Rylee Turner. Both would instantly help to keep the away team’s hopes alive.

With the contest back within two points, 45-43, the Eagles would take a timeout.

After talking things over in the huddle, the Eagles would once again combat a rally from the Saints and score 11 of the next 13 points. The teams’ run would give them a 56-45 lead with just four minutes left.

Down the stretch, the two sides would exchange small blows as the Saints attempted to climb Mount Everest.

However, Brockington locked things down on both sides of the ball for the Eagles. She would record the final nine points that the Eagles found while stealing away the ball twice defensively.

The final scoreline favored the Eagles, 67-56, as the team punched their ticket to the 2024 GMAC championships.

The Eagles completed the contest with 42% from the field, 46% from three-point range and 12-of-20 from the free throw line. The team was led by Brockingtons phenomenal 18 points, four steals and three rebounds.

“She [Brockington] is a clutch time player,” said Pickens. “She came up with some big free throws, some big stops, some big rebounds. She’s a senior and she wants to go out the right way.”

Alongside Brockington, Daniels knocked down four three-pointers and one shot from inside the arc for 14 points.

The Eagles moved to 29-1 on the season with the win, while the Saints fell to 18-11.

“Thomas More switches up what they do defensively, and I thought we attacked them well in certain ways,” said Pickens. “I don’t think we are as dominant as our post players usually are, but thankfully our guards came up big when we needed it.”

They next look to take on either the Malone Pioneers or Trevecca Nazarene Trojans in the title game on Saturday, March 8, with tip-off set for 3:00 p.m.

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