Home is where the heart is for Ashland’s Kari Daugherty. Or, at least closer to home.
Attending Division I Dayton for the first two years of her career, Daugherty was a solid contributor for the Flyers, helping them advance to the NCAA tournament in 2010 and 2011. She was an Atlantic-10 Rookie Team selection as a freshman and averaged 6.0 points per game and 2.9 rebounds per game in 33 games in her sophomore season.
Basketball seemed to be going great, but something stronger was pulling Daugherty away from Dayton.
Daugherty’s older sister Kristin – a four-time All-Atlantic-10 pick at Dayton — was graduating after a great run for the Flyers, and her younger siblings – a sister in high school and brother in middle school – were growing up fast and also flourishing in their basketball careers.
“I never really had the opportunity to see either of them play in my two years at Dayton,” Daugherty said. “That was very difficult for me because I felt like I was missing out on their lives. I wanted to come to a place where I was a little closer to home.”
The native of Fresno, Ohio, had also strengthened her relationship with God while at Dayton, and sought out a place that would nurture her spiritual life.
“I felt like God was calling me to a different place,” Daugherty said. “I knew he wanted me in an area where I could grow even more. I loved my experience and my teammates and my coaches at Dayton, but I knew it was time to move on.”
So, when Ashland’s longtime head coach Sue Ramsey received a phone call from Daugherty’s former AAU coach last winter about the possibility of her interest in the program, the coach was thrilled. Ramsey was an assistant coach at Miami (Ohio) when Daugherty’s mother Carol was a standout player for Ohio University, and she watched Kari win two state titles in high school.
“I was very familiar with the family and the basketball IQ and the level of talent,” Ramsey said. They are a tremendous basketball family.
“I was in a very thankful position and one where Kari sought us out. Believe me, when he mention Kari’s name, I had to catch my breath.”
After last season, Daugherty’s release from Dayton was granted and she visited Ashland, a Christian school of 6,000 students about an hour from the family’s home in Fresno.
“Ashland was a perfect fit,” Daugherty said. “Coach Ramsey is a wonderful role model for women of all ages, and her relationship with the Lord drew me in. I just knew I could grow in my faith being here.”
“I knew what a tremendous athlete and student Kari was,” Ramsey said. “It was only after we met face to face that I realized what a tremendous person Kari is. I am so impressed with her character and her consistency. I’ve been doing this 33 years and it is a true joy to be doing this every day and for her to call me coach.”
Content in her personal life, Daugherty is now an opponent’s worst nightmare. The junior forward leads Division II with 13.8 rebounds per game and double-doubles (24). She also ranks seventh in the nation in scoring (21.3 ppg), and is shooting 50.6 percent from the field.
Daugherty garnered GLIAC Player-of-the-Year honors while sparking the Eagles to an incredible 31-1 record and their first trip to the national quarterfinals in school history.
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“She never takes a possession off – in practice she is extremely competitive, and that carries over into games,” Ramsey said. “She is relentless and a fierce rebounder and takes a lot of pride in that. She’s extremely talented on the defensive end and can guard any position from point guard to post, and that helps on the defensive end with match-ups. She can shoot the three, she can drive to the basket, she can post up and score with her back to the basket, she can shoot a pull-up jumper. She has a complete game.”
In Ashland’s regional tournament victory against Quincy, Daugherty grabbed 22 rebounds – one shy of the NCAA tournament single-game record. It was the fifth time this season she has pulled down 20 or more rebounds in a game.
Daugherty, of course, credits her teammates’ unselfishness for her success, and the fact they were so welcoming of her after the transfer.
Ashland is ranked No. 2 in the nation and brings a 31-game winning streak to San Antonio, Texas. The Eagles’ only loss was the first game of the season against Minnesota-Mankato. Daugherty had just nine points – one of only two times this season she scored less than double-figures.
“There is an air of confidence and unity with this team,” Ramsey said. “When people watch us, and the more and more we win that’s the one thing we comment on – how calm we remain and how together we are. There is tremendous leadership and everyone understands their role and embraces it.”
The Eagles will face Alaska-Anchorage at Bill Greehey Arena on March 20. No team remaining in this year’s field has won the Division II title. But Daugherty is not just hoping to raise the trophy at the end of the tournament – she is thinking bigger picture.
“We have talked about how a simple game of basketball can make such a big impact on so many people’s lives,” Daugherty said. “I just hope during our experience in San Antonio that we can impact someone’s life – even if it is just one person. That’s what I look forward to most every time I step on the court.”