By BRIAN LESTER
Ashley Andrews has been through a lot as a college basketball player. A torn anterior cruciate ligament forced her to miss her sophomore season in 2010-11.
The road back was nothing short of difficult for the University of Findlay point guard, testing her mentally and physically, but she never stopped pushing forward. Not last year when she grinded through a 27-game schedule and not this season either.
So perhaps it was only appropriate that on a night when the Oilers battled rival Ashland University, the No. 1 team in the country and 2012 NCAA Division II national runner-up, that Andrews took her biggest step forward in helping Findlay stun the Eagles 66-51 Thursday inside an energized Croy Gymnasium.
The redshirt junior scored 13 points, her biggest contribution coming on a 3-pointer, putting the Oilers up 57-44 and forcing the Eagles to burn a timeout in a desperate situation with 6:04 to play.
Andrews hopped to the bench with her fists clenched, savoring the emotion of the moment, and reflected on the biggest regular-season win in program history.
“Oh my gosh! I needed this kind of game,” Andrews said. “It means so much. My teammates found me shots and I was fortunate to hit them. It was great.”
Beating Ashland is always a thrill for the Oilers, but this one was extra special.
Findlay (18-4, 15-3) set a goal of making it to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010, and this statement win puts it a little closer that goal.
The Eagles (23-1, 17-1) still own the best record in the conference, but their 49-game regular season win streak, which included a 72-41 win over the Oilers last month, is out of breath.
“It’s unbelievable,” Findlay head coach Kate Cummings said. “We played possessed. Our seniors said they want to go back to the NCAA tournament and this win proves they are worthy.”
The Oilers, who have won seven consecutive games, shot 47.2 percent (25 of 53) from the field and held an Eagles team shooting nearly 50 percent from the field to 33.9 percent (20 of 59).
Former Riverdale standout Kayla Brown had 12 points, the Oilers held a 40-22 edge in points in the paint and got 25 points from their bench.
“We were in sync and encouraging each other the whole game,” Andrews said. “We came in with nothing to lose. We put it all on the line and gave our best effort.”
The Eagles were without their best player in reigning national player of the year Kari Daugherty (22.5 ppg), who has missed the past six games.
But they have a lot of talent, including Daiva Gerbec, who scored 14 points. Ashley Dorner added 10 points but the Eagles were just 2 of 20 from 3-point range and turned the ball over 16 times.
The Oilers never let the Eagles get into a rhythm. When Ashland closed to within 44-39 with 12:34 to play, Andrews drove in for a layup and was fouled. She capped the 3-point play with a free throw and Findlay gradually pulled away. A trey by Brown gave the Oilers a double-digit lead at 54-42.
“These players earned this win with the amount of work they have put in day in and day out,” Cummings said. “They have bought into the system and believe in each other. There is no drama or jealousy. They work together.”
And now the Oilers have a signature win to provide a shot of momentum with four games to go in the regular season. Findlay trails Ashland by two games in the division and is second overall in the GLIAC. The Oilers also have the second best record in the Midwest Region.
Findlay is back in action at 3 p.m. Saturday with a home game against Lake Erie College (3-18, 1-17).
“It’s an amazing feeling to win this game. We all wanted it,” Andrews said. “It’s another step toward the NCAA tournament. It’s a big accomplishment.”
ashland (24-1, 17-1)
Gerbec 6-12 2-2 14, Miller 3-8 1-1 8, Tenyak 2-8 1-1 6, Woods 3-11 2-3 8, Dorner 4-9 2-3 10, Laporte 0-2 0-0 0, Poorman 1-1 0-0 2, Yoder 0-6 0-0 0, Mantowski 1-2 1-2 3. TOTALS: 20-59 9-12–51.
findlay (18-4, 15-3)
Wuebker 1-4 3-3 5, Dotson 4-5 1-1 9, Brown 5-11 0-0 12, Andrews 5-5 1-1 13, Elam 1-5 0-2 2, Maggert 0-0 0-0 0, Beasley 2-4 0-0 5, Klausing 3-6 0-1 6, Kessler 0-3 0-0 0, Grevenkamp 0-1 0-0 0, Piehl 1-3 3-3 5, Lewis 2-3 0-0 4, Kras 1-3 3-4 5. TOTALS: 25-53 11-5–66.
HALFTIME: Findlay, 31-26.
3-Point GOALS: Ashland 2-20 (Miller 1-4, Tenyak 1-6, Dorner 0-1, Laporte 0-2, Yoder 0-3, Woods 0-4); Findlay 5-11 (Andrews 2-2, Brown 2-4, Beasley 1-2, Wuebker 0-1, Elam 0-1, Kessler 0-1).
rebounds: Ashland 40 (Gerbec 8, Dorner & Poorman 7); Findlay 33 (Dotson & Beasley 6). ASSISTS: Ashland 10 (Miller & Woods 3); Findlay 12 (Dotson, Brown, Andrews, Klausing & Piehl 2). STEALS: Ashland 3 (Woods 2); Findlay 9 (Klausing 3). BLOCKS: Ashland 2; Findlay 5 (Kessler).
TURNOVERS: Ashland 16, Findlay 12. TOTAL FOULS: Ashland 16, Findlay 19. FOULED OUT: None.
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