By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — When Quinn Rear buried a 3-point basket just 1 minute, 14 seconds into the second half to tie the game for the eighth time, it appeared Ashford and Mount Mercy were in for a hard-fought battle to the finish.
After that, though, the Saints' side of the scoreboard seemed to be stuck on 21 for ...
"Forever," Ashford coach Kelly Kruger said, drawing out each syllable.
Even though the Saints' defense played the Mustangs tough enough to keep the score within reach, Ashford struggled much more against the Mount Mercy defense. By the time the Saints finally scored again on another 3-pointer by Rear at the 9:30 mark Mount Mercy had stretched the lead to double digits.
The Mustangs maintained pretty close to that advantage the rest of the way, beating Ashford 52-44 in non-conference college women's basketball Wednesday evening at Kehl Arena.
"We can't score; we're offensively challenged right now," said Kruger, whose team dropped to 1-4 in his first year as Ashford's coach.
Ashford has held three of its five opponents to 52 or fewer points, and no opponent has even reached 70 against the Saints this season.
"Our defense, for the most part, did a good job," Kruger said. "They average 72 a game and wouldn't have gotten 50 if we didn't have to foul."
But scoring even 50 points a game has been a challenge for Ashford's offense. The Saints have been below that threshold three times and scored 52 in the lone win (52-46 against Judson on Saturday).
"What's discouraging is we're missing those bunnies," Kruger said. "We weren't aggressive."
Mount Mercy, which trailed just twice at 13-12 when Ashford's Ieva Eida made a pair of free throws and at 18-17 on a Jennifer Forge layup late in the first half took the lead to stay at 22-21 on a free throw by Callan Timms with 17:15 remaining. The Mustangs (4-2) then tacked on 11 more points before the Saints put the ball through the net again.
Abby Herb, who led Mount Mercy with 15 points, scored a pair of buckets in the run, while Danielle Herdliska tossed in a 3-pointer.
The Saints, meanwhile, went 0-for-9 from the field four of those misses from 3-point range and committed four turnovers between baskets.
"It's hard to watch, it's hard to coach and it's hard to play when it doesn't go in," Kruger said. "I think maybe our movement wasn't bad, but we're not seeing the post-ups and the cuts."
The Saints still struggled on offense after Rear's 3-pointer with 9:30 left cut the gap to 33-24. Neither team scored for more than two minutes after that, then Ashford pulled within 33-26 on a pair of free throws by Elizabeth Nardi.
Mount Mercy scored the next four points before a jumper in the paint by Madison Wagner cut it to 37-28 with 5:36 left. Wagner led the Saints with 11 points. That was the last time the lead was in single digits, though, until Eida drained a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left for the final margin.
"We didn't quit," Kruger said. "I think we have enough talent to be successful, but we have to do it."
MOUNT MERCY 52, ASHFORD 44
MOUNT MERCY (4-2) Carrie Wood 1-5 3-4 5, Amanda Frost 5-11 0-0 10, Callan Timms 0-3 3-4 3, Paige Last 0-2 0-0 0, Mackenzie Zeitler 2-3 2-2 6, Danielle Herdliska 1-2 4-4 7, Christa Oldham 1-4 4-6 6, Abby Herb 3-11 9-12 15, Demeka Words 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 13-43 25-32 52.
ASHFORD (1-4) Elizabeth Nardi 1-7 2-2 4, Quinn Rear 3-9 1-2 10, Sarah Vozel 0-4 0-0 0, Jessica Mlachnik 1-2 0-0 2, Madison Wagner 5-16 1-3 11, Jennifer Forge 2-6 3-4 7, Briaunna Guthrie 0-0 0-0 0, Genevieve Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Janell Anthony 1-1 0-0 2, Ieva Eida 2-7 2-2 8. Totals 15-53 9-13 44.
Halftime Mount Mercy 19, Ashford 18. 3-point goals Mount Mercy 1-7 (Herdliska 1-2, Herb 0-1, Timms 0-2, Last 0-2); Ashford 5-21 (Rear 3-6, Eida 2-6, Johnson 0-1, Wagner 0-8). Total fouls Mount Mercy 17, Ashford 25. Fouled out Words, Mlachnik, Anthony. Rebounds Mount Mercy 39 (Herb 8, Zeitler 8); Ashford 34 (Nardi 4, Rear 4, Wagner 4, Forge 4, Eida 4). Assists Mount Mercy 9 (Oldham 4); Ashford 9 (Wagner 5). Steals Mount Mercy 5 (Herb 2); Ashford 8 (Vozel 4). Blocked shots Mount Mercy 4 (Words 2); Ashford 2 (Forge, Eida). Turnovers Mount Mercy 18, Ashford 16.