ASHLAND - It was a different year, a different game.
But the feeling after Tiffin University's 67-64 loss at Ashland was familiar.
In each of John Hill's four seasons as Dragons coach, TU has come here and played the Eagles tight, with the game coming down to the final possessions.
But each time, the result has been the same - Ashland manages to squeak out a victory; Tiffin leaves disappointed.
Most of the numbers from Saturday are similar. Tiffin and Ashland each shot about 39 percent from the floor, and the Dragons out-rebounded the Eagles by a slim 37-35 margin.
The difference was in the foul shooting, both in attempts and accuracy.
Ashland went 24 of 28 from the stripe, which included a 12-of-13 effort in the second half. The Eagles' Brooke Turson was clutch. Not only did he go 8 of 8 for the game, but he went 6 of 6 in the final 36 seconds of regulation, when a make or miss meant the difference between a one-and-two possession game.
Tiffin went 12 of 18 from the line, which included two key misses by Joe Graessle and Khaleal McCormick in the final minutes.
"You've got to make your free throws," Ashland coach John Ellenwood said after his team improved to 6-11, 4-10 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. "They foul and extend the game, and they're hoping for us to miss free throws and we're hoping to make them. Today we made them."
After Turson connected on a pair of free throws to extend Ashland's lead to 65-61, Graessle missed a pair of 3's, only to see TU collect offensive rebounds each time. Graessle connected on a trey with 2.2 seconds left to cut Ashland's lead to one.
But again, Ashland got the ball to Turson, who was fouled with 1.6 seconds on the clock.
Again, Turson delivered on a pair of free throws.
Ellenwood's message to his team after that was clear: Anybody but Graessle.
"We just wanted to make sure Joe Graessle didn't catch it," Ellenwood said. "Anybody else that does, if they make a 70-footer... we'll go to overtime.
As it happened, TU inbounded the ball to Cody Dennison, who launched just a few feet in front of the Ashland 3-point line. The long, long shot hit off the glass and bounced to the floor.
Hill said the Dragons were affected by an unfortunate event a few minutes into the game, when one of the game officials was injured. The rest of the game was called by two referees.
"That hurt us," Hill said. "Their whole game plan is to knock the (heck) out of Joe. He didn't have anything that was smooth or easy. They did a tremendous job defensively. There were times, though, I thought their were a lot of calls, with just two officials, that they couldn't handle."
One thing was Ashland All-American post Evan Yates. Yates, a long-time nemesis of the Dragons and pretty much everyone else in the GLIAC, didn't start. But he was still a factor, scoring 14 points and nine rebounds. Eight of his 14 points came from the foul line.
Hill said he thought his guys did a decent job on Yates.
"(Yates) is a man, he knows how to use his body," Hill said. "He's knockin' the (heck) out of us, and we get called for a foul."
Ashland started out strong, taking leads of 15-7 and 23-11. One of the keys to the start was Cole Krizancic, who finished with five 3-pointers and 15 points.
Tiffin got things going in the final minutes of the first half, rallying from the 12-point deficit to tie the game.
A big reason for the Dragons run was McCormick, the 6-foot-5 freshman who appears to be gaining confidence by the game.
McCormick scored eight points in the first half, and also played a key role on the offensive boards, grabbing four.
His breakaway dunk with 39 seconds left tied the game at 34 just before the half.
But the momentum turned early in the second half. It started when TU's Cody Dennison attempted an alley-oop to Mike Boan, but Boan couldn't finish the basket. Ashland responded with an 8-0 run, getting a pair of 3's from Krizancic and taking a 42-34 lead with about 17 minutes left.
But Tiffin came right back. Graessle and McCormick hits 3's, Dennison split a pair of free throws, then Jonathan Sutherlin slammed one down to give Tiffin a 43-42 edge with 15:10 left.
Tiffin eventually led by three, but a four-minute scoreless stretch put it behind.
"When we get the easy shots, we need to knock them down," TU assistant Jerry Buccilla said.
McCormick had 12 points, seven boards for TU (7-13, 4-10). Graessle led all scorers with 21 points.
Dennison had eight points and six assists.