Tiffin men go cold in final minutes

Wendell Davis was in the holiday mood Saturday when describing Ashland’s 58-54 win at Tiffin.

The Eagles forward, who had 14 points and six assists, was happy after the game.

“It was a great team win,” he said. “Going into Christmas, this was a great win, a great sent.”

Tiffin coach Jerry Buccilla wished his team wasn’t in so much of a giving mood. His team — which lost for the sixth-straight time — led Ashland most of the second half, only to see his team destruct in the final minutes.

Tiffin led 49-43 after two Hunter Schmaltz free throws with 6:41 left. Ashland answered with a 6-0 run to tie it, but Alex Brown’s driving layup with 4:11 left put TU up 51-49.

And then, nothing.

For more than 3 1/2 minutes, the Dragons were held scoreless.

With the game tied at 51, Alex Brown missed two free throws. Ashland took the lead on a stickback by Drew Noble at the 3:01 mark, and then — twice — TU’s Austin Adams was called for an offensive foul.

“We were trying to attack off initial action way too much,” Buccilla said.

Buccilla said Tiffin was more patient in the middle section of the second half, when it led. But when the game got tight late, “we went back into that mentality, because we tried to get it immediately.”

The game remained 53-51 into the final minute, but TU’s Shane Waldon missed a potential game-tying layup with 32 seconds left. Ashland’s Ben Haraway, a Norwalk graduate, split two free throws to make it 54-51, and the Dragons had the ball with 26 seconds on the clock.

Brown got the ball and drove, but his layup missed. Davis got the rebound, and the Eagles held on from there.

“Some huge stops there,” Ashland coach John Ellenwood said. “The charges, great defense. That what won the game, that effort.”

Noble finished with 14 points and nine rebounds for the Eagles, and Joey Zahn hit four 3s for 12 points

Buccilla said he was generally pleased with his defense, but late offensive rebounds from Noble were critical.

“We did a very poor job the last few minutes of keeping them off (the offensive glass),” he said. “We played pretty well defensively, but we can’t have that. That was the difference in the game.”

Tiffin (2-8, 0-5 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) was paced by Brown and Tristan Papa, who each had 12 points. Adams had eight points and a team-best seven rebounds.

Popa did all of his scoring from 3-point range. He was 4 for 7 from deep, but he was the only one to contribute from there. The rest of the team went a combined 0 for 9.

“Tristan spread well,” Buccilla said. “Our guys found him when the defenders gave him that room. He hit some big shots, I was even more impressed with his effort defensively.”

Davis said it was the first time the Eagles had faced a zone for 40 minutes, and it presented challenges.

“Going in the game, Coach has a motto,” Davis said. “‘On the road, win by 1.'”

Ashland improved to 8-3, 3-2 in the GLIAC.

“We did a great job,” Ellenwood said. “Every time we come here, it’s a nailbiter.”

Tiffin’s next game is Tuesday, when it hosts Lambton — a Canadian college. The Dragons have a non-conference game at Carlow Dec. 30 before returning to GLIAC play at Northern Michigan Jan. 4.

Buccilla said he wished the Dragons could play today.

“I expect us to win more games in the GLIAC than any past team,” he said. “I expect us to start clicking off Ws.”

And for the Dragons, that would be a good Christmas present.