Ashland, Ohio - The Ferris State University women's basketball team used a dominating defensive performance to advance to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Tournament Championship Game for the first in eight years as the Bulldogs topped Tiffin 53-39 in semifinal play on Saturday (March 3) at Kates Gymnasium in Ashland, Ohio.
The second-seeded Bulldogs limited the third-seeded Dragons to only 21.7% (13-60) shooting for the game and posted a decisive 48-30 rebounding advantage in reaching the title contest for the first time since 2004.
FSU will face top-seeded and nationally fourth-ranked host Ashland on Sunday (March 4) in the league tournament final at 2 p.m. (ET) inside Kates Gymnasium. AU beat fourth-seeded Michigan Tech 80-70 in the first semifinal of the day.
Ferris State took a 30-20 halftime advantage and eventually pushed the margin to as many as 18 points in the second half.
Freshman forward/center Christina Branch (Grand Rapids/West Michigan Lutheran) paced a balanced Bulldog lineup with 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Sophomore guard Sarah DeShone (Elkhart, Ind./Jimtown) added 11 points while senior guard Kelsey DeNoyelles (Mt. Pleasant/Sacred Heart) netted 10 points in the victory.
With the win, FSU improved to 22-5 overall this campaign and needs only a single win to match the school single-season record of 23 wins established en route to the NCAA-II Sweet Sixteen in 2006-07.
The GLIAC North Division Champions shot 43.1% (22-51) overall for the afternoon and made six-of-seven (85.7%) free throws to go with a three-of-12 (25%) showing from three-point range. FSU did have 22 turnovers to only seven for the Dragons.
However, FSU limited Tiffin to only seven field goals in the first half (7-26) and six in the second period (6-34) as the Dragons converted only six-of-34 (17.6%) attempts over the final 20 minutes of the contest. They made only two-of-17 (11.8%) three's for the day and 11-of-18 (61.1%) free throws.
Jessica Harris led Tiffin with a game-high 14 points and 12 rebounds in a double-double showing. She was the lone TU player to reach double-figure scoring, though, as FSU held the Dragons' talented backcourt combination of Mandy Jaeb and Karli Mast to a combined 1-of-24 shooting. Jaeb was held scoreless on 10 field goal tries while Mast converted only one-of-14 tries.
Ferris State also received seven points off the bench from senior forward Lindsey Pettit (Portland) while senior guard Tricia Principe (Kalamazoo/Mattanw) contributed eight rebounds, four points and four assists.
FSU finished with 10 assists, three steals and three blocked shots in comparison to Tiffin's six assists, eight steals and one block. TU totaled 11 offensive boards to 10 for the Bulldogs.
The contest was the first-ever league tournament matchup between the two teams. FSU improved to 4-4 all-time versus Tiffin with the win and avenged a 78-49 league regular-season road setback to the Dragons on Dec. 1 in Tiffin, Ohio.
Ferris State will square off against Ashland for the second time this season in Sunday's title contest. It will mark FSU's third-ever berth in the league final as FSU previously received runner-up honors in both 2000 and 2004.
Earlier this season (Feb. 11), the fourth-ranked Eagles topped FSU 66-56 at Wink Arena in Big Rapids. They own a current 27-1 overall mark to date this season and are riding a 27-game winning streak.
The winner of Sunday's contest will receive the league's automatic bid into the NCAA-II Midwest Regional Tournament March 9-12 at a campus site to be determined. Both teams figure to receive a bid to the national tournament despite the outcome as AU was listed first and FSU fourth in the latest regional rankings announced this week. The official tournament selections will be released via www.ncaa.com on Sunday night at 10 p.m. (ET).
Sunday's championship game will be carried live on local radio station Sunny 97.3 FM and the Bulldog Sports Network with Rob Bentley calling the play-by-play action. The broadcast begins with the Meijer Pregame Show at 1:30 p.m. (ET) from inside Kates Gymnasium and is accessible online at www.FerrisStateBulldogs.com.