ALLENDALE, Mich. – The Michigan Tech women's basketball team fell to Ashland University 77-61 Saturday afternoon in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals, hosted by Grand Valley State University. The Huskies closed the first half with a 11-0 run to draw within three points at 34-31 through 20 minutes, but the Eagles pulled away with strong third and four quarters. Senior forward Elizabeth Kelliher reached 1,000 career points in Saturday's game, just the 26th player in Tech program history to accomplish that feat.
"I'm happy with how hard we competed today," Michigan Tech Head Coach Sam Hoyt said. "We just needed to take care of the ball a bit better and limit their second chance opportunities. It was good to see Cassidy [Trotter] step up for us offensively to lead our attack. I'm also really happy for our senior Elizabeth Kelliher who reached a career milestone of 1,000 points."
The two teams traded baskets back and forth throughout the first five minutes of Saturday's game. Ashland (28-2) struck first when Karlee Pireu got into the paint for a layup to make it a 2-0 score. Michigan Tech (21-9) quickly tied things up with points in the paint from junior Abbie Botz at the 9:18 mark of the first quarter. Sara Loomis countered for the Eagles with a layup and then it was senior Elizabeth Kelliher getting a feed from sophomore Cassidy Trotter on the low block for her first points of the game to tie it up 4-4.
With the score still deadlocked at 6-6 with just under eight minutes left in the quarter, Ashland went on a quick 5-0 scoring run to go up 11-6. Maddie Dackin and Renee Stimpert combined to provide the points for the Eagles. However, the Huskies didn't let Ashland extend the run and countered with a quick 5-0 burst of their own. Botz sighted in a triple and then Trotter tied up the game again at 11-11 with 5:22 remaining in the quarter on a layup.
Unfortunately, Tech was kept off the scoreboard for the next three minutes and that enabled Ashland to put together another mini run. Renee Stimpert dialed in a mid-range jumper to make it a 17-11 contest with just over three minutes to play in the quarter. Trotter broke the Huskies' drought with a jumper of her own with 2:28 left in the first, but the Eagles would close the first frame with a 21-13 lead.
The Eagles had managed to tack on six more points to their advantage by the time the clock ticked down to the 4:23 mark in the second period. Stimpert cut to the rim for a layup to push the margin to 34-20. About a minute later though, freshman Sloane Zenner blocked a Hallie Heidemann triple try, scooped up the rebound, and went coast to coast for a key layup. Zenner's basket sparked an 11-0 run to end the second quarter and get the Huskies back into contention at the midway point.
Junior Ellie Welsh tacked on a trey with 2:09 left followed by two more three-point baskets prior to the end of the quarter. Trotter generated the second one in the string of three in row at the 1:17 mark and right before the buzzer sounded freshman Ellie Mackay found the bottom of the net to cap the run. Junior Hannah Hobson blocked a Sara Loomis jumper and found Mackay up the court with a pass to the left wing. Mackay let the shot go before the horn and the ball went through the rim for three more points, making it a 34-31 contest at the intermission.
In the early moments of the third quarter, the Huskies drew to within two points at 39-37 when Mackay connected from downtown on another triple. The defense came up with a stop on Ashland's ensuing possession, but the Huskies weren't able to come up with points to tie or take the lead. The Eagles then stretched the lead to double digits over the course of the next four minutes. Sarah Hart cashed in a layup with 4:24 to play in the third, leaving the score at 49-39.
Ashland bumped the lead to as a many as 13 points at 55-42 in the in the third frame when Stimpert found the mark on a mid-range jumper. Two Mackay free throws kept the Huskies in striking distance at the end of the third period. With 37 seconds on the clock, Mackay cashed in the two chances at the charity stripe to make it 56-46 going into the fourth.
Tech and Ashland traded points for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, but because of that the Huskies weren't able to make up any ground. Kelliher picked up her 1,000th career point on a free throw with 4:37 to go and it sliced Ashland's lead back to single digits at 63-54. Kelliher also established a new career high of 300 points in a season and currently has the best career field goal percentage in school history (56.7% 414-730). Unfortunately, that's as close as the Huskies would get the rest of the way. With time winding down, the Eagles hit a couple of key jumpers and then were able to ice the game away at the free throw line when Tech was forced to foul.
Trotter powered the Huskies' offense with a career high 21 points while adding four rebounds, an assist, and one steal. Mackay followed with 13 points and two steals while Botz and Welsh chipped in nine points each. Botz guided the Huskies in the paint with a team high seven rebounds. Hobson dished out three assists and collected two blocked shots.
As a team, the Huskies made 21 of 51 shots from the field (41.2%), were 9 for 18 from three-point range (50.0%), and converted 10 of 11 chances at the free throw line (90.9%). Tech has made 50 percent or more of their three-point tries in each of the last three games.
The Eagles had four players fire in 10 or more points Saturday afternoon, led by Johnson with a game high 22 points and 13 rebounds. Stimpert tossed in 12 points and dished out a team best six assists while Pireu and Brooke Smith each chipped in 10 points. In regards to team numbers, Ashland made 28 of 57 chances from the field (49.1%), were 5 for 14 from long distance (35.7%), and 16 of 19 at the free throw line (84.2%). The Eagles out-rebounded Tech 37-22, had 40 points in the paint, and produced 19 points off of turnovers.
The Huskies are now 21-9 overall and will wait to see if they earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Midwest Regional Tournament. Tech was ranked 8th in the most recent poll which was released on Wednesday. The tournament field of the top eight teams in the region will be announced Sunday night at 10 p.m. eastern time.