Tiffin men get long-awaited victory over Ashland, TU women fall

You win some, you lose some

For senior Joe Graessle it was a bittersweet moment. Once again Graessle was listed as the Dragons’ leading scorer with 27 points, but as he stood on the court after the game, it wasn’t the number 27 on his mind. It was nine.

During his four years at Tiffin University Graessle faced the Ashland Eagles nine times, and came up short nine times.

“Ashland is a team that I personally have never beat, so this was something I really wanted, you know, at least once,” Graessle said. “And with that the team jumped on board and we knew we wanted to make history today.”

Coach Jerry Buccilla knew his team had the potential to snap the losing streak as every loss had come in heartbreaking fashion.

“All nine losses were decided by only a handful of points,” Buccilla said. “Many of those games we had leads in the second half like tonight, but in the past we weren’t able to close out the game.”

With Saturday’s 78-69 victory over Ashland, Graessle, Buccilla and the Dragons finally have that monkey off their back.

After four seasons of being bested by the Eagles, Buccilla shared in the satisfying moment with his team.

“We finally got the win,” Buccilla said. “We really wanted it and the guys played hard enough to go out there and take it.”

Ashland kept the Dragons on their toes in the first half. Tiffin found itself down by four with a minute left. Tiffin surged before the half to tie things up, but the momentum didn’t end there. Buccilla stressed the importance of coming out strong in the second half to open things up and take some pressure off his team.

“We stressed how important it was to win the first five minutes of the second half,” Buccilla said. “We felt that was the most crucial part of the game, we needed to set the tempo, deflate them and keep our run going.”

The Dragons did just that, outscoring the Eagles 10-4 in the first five minutes of the second half.

With the lead in the second half, the story was all too familiar. Only this time the Dragons looked to write a new ending. With under four minutes to play, Tiffin’s lead was cut to four. Pressure mounted for the Dragons as they looked to secure the victory.

“We told these guys they needed to stay within the team framework, maintain composure, don’t press things,” Buccilla said. “We tried to run an offense that spread the floor out, we wanted to control the clock, use our time and then attack. We didn’t want quick stuff, we wanted to stick to the team framework, play as a team, and stay confident.”

As time ran out the Dragons looked at the scoreboard and saw what they had worked so hard for: The losing streak was over.

“The difference maker was a few big plays by our two seniors,” Buccilla said. “Joe Graessle hit all but one of his free throws, and Mike Boan had a real nice layup late, so our two seniors, like they should, came through for us to win the game.”

Although he was the game’s leading scorer, Graessle praised the play of his teammates, and credited this as a team victory.

“We had to be smart with the ball and finish like we know how, no matter who has the ball, or who is on the floor; we as a team trust each other, and having team trust is huge,” Graessle said. “When you have that you’re able to go out and finish these games, and thats what we did today.”

Khaleal McCormick had 24 points for TU.

Tiffin’s women didn’t fare as well. The Dragons got off to a slow start and never recovered, falling to Ashland 108-65.

“Unfortunately, the fact is we’ve been a slow-starting team this season,” said Dragons coach Pam Oswald.

Ashland coach Sue Ramsey hasn’t forgotten the bitter defeat handed to her team by the Dragons earlier this season.

“I don’t know if revenge is the word but it definitely stung,” Ramsey said. “We haven’t lost to anybody twice this year and we came in here with the mindset that we wanted to keep that statistic going.”

Ashland came out on fire, connecting with 81 1/2 percent of its field goals in the first half. The Eagles also were 9 of 9 on 3-pointers in the opening half.

“The girls were just feeling it today, they were in the zone,” Ramsey said. “We got some good open looks, so we just shot it and really executed well.”

After beating the Eagles earlier this season, Oswald said she knew this game would not be a walk in the park.

“We definitely knew we had a target on our back, but were weren’t in a mindset of being intimidated or worried, our kids came in with every intent to play hard,” Oswald said. “I gotta give a lot of credit to Ashland, they shot fantastic from the floor today; I’ve never heard of a team shooting 81 percent [in a half], we just weren’t getting ourself in position to make plays.”

Tiffin’s women ended the first half down 66-31. In the second half the Dragons showed improved performance but the damage had been done.

“They definitely gained the mental edge as well,” Oswald said. “When you’re making shots, the energy gets pumping a little bit more, intensity runs high, but for us we just didn’t have that today.”

With two games left this season, Tiffin is now looking to end the season on a high note.

“We’ve got three seniors that deserve to go out on a high note,” Oswald said. “It’s a process of looking at this game, not spending too much time on it, and changing our focus to the next two teams coming up and being able to play better than what we did today.”