ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Top-ranked Ashland University survived Glenville State’s 40 minutes of fury.
Great Midwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year Annie Roshak scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Eagles held off the reigning Division II champions 76-67 in the national semifinals Wednesday night inside the St. Joseph Civic Arena.
The Eagles (36-0) will play sixth-ranked University of Minnesota Duluth (32-3) in the national championship game on Saturday, April 1 in Dallas. Duluth beat Catawba 70-59 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
Glenville State (33-3) forced Ashland into 26 turnovers, but the Eagles committed just three miscues in the decisive fourth quarter.
“Overall I was actually really pleased,” Ashland coach Kari Pickens said of her team’s reaction to Glenville’s relentless pressure. “A lot of our turnovers were in the half court and were dead-ball turnovers, where we traveled or we double-dribbled or things like that where (Glenville) couldn’t go on huge momentum swings.
“They average 27 forced turnovers a game and we were at 26.”
Ashland point guard Savaya Brockington was sensational against the ultra-athletic Pioneers. The Purdue Northwest transfer committed just three turnovers while scoring 16 points and distributing six assists.
The Eagles’ other primary ballhandler, Morgan Yoder (who missed the entire Midwest Regional with a leg injury) played almost 17 minutes and had two assists and just two turnovers.
“We put a lot on our point guards,” Pickens said. “You’ve got to get open and you’ve got to pretty much break the press single-handedly.”
The Eagles led 41-27 at the half and opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run. Ashland opened a 47-27 bulge on Roshak’s layup with 8:01 to play in the period.
“I was taking the ball out and I was like, ‘You have to work so hard to get open. I’m so thankful that you are on my team and willing to do whatever it takes,’ ” Roshak said of Ashland’s talented point-guard duo. “They deserve a ton of credit for the fight that they have.”
Facing one of its biggest deficits of the season, Glenville outscored Ashland 17-6 the rest of the third quarter and trailed 53-44 going to the final 10 minutes. The Pioneers opened the fourth quarter on a 19-12 run and cut Ashland’s advantage all the way down to a seat-squirming 65-63 on an elbow jumper by Mickayla Perdue with 2:37 remaining.
“They have zero quit in them,” Glenville coach Kim Stephens said. “We’ve been down big before and continued to chip away and work and work and work.
“The effort was there. The heart was there and that’s all I care about as a coach. I’m at peace because they left it all out there.”
Back-to-back layups by Brockington and Roshak gave Ashland some breathing room at 69-63 with 1:53 showing. The Eagles closed the game on an 11-4 to punch their ticket to the title tilt for the first time since 2018.
Hayley Smith had a big night for the Eagles, scoring 15 points and grabbing a game-high 16 boards as Ashland out-rebounded Glenville by a whopping 52-32 margin. Hallie Heidemann added 13 points, eight rebounds and a game-high eight assists without a turnover.
“I could not be more pleased with our rebounding,” Pickens said. “Hayley Smith had been struggling a little bit and she came out and had 16 rebounds. Annie had 10 and Hallie had eight. That was probably what I was most pleased with this game.”
Breanna Campbell led Glenville State with 23 points while Perdue added 20.