SAN ANTONIO – Kari Daugherty’s postgame comments served only to audibly confirm what everybody at Bill Greehey Arena had just witnessed.
Facing yet another talented player in the middle, Daughtery responded with her 25th double-double this season, scoring a career-high 31 points and pulling down 22 rebounds to lead Ashland past Bentley 77-62 in the semifinals of the Division II women’s championship.
The Eagles (33-1), winners of their last 33 games, will play Shaw (28-6), who easily handled Rollins 87-71 in the other semifinal contest. The Eagles have won their last 15 games and 25 of their last 26.
As impressive a night as Daughtery had scoring – at will and from close range – she dominated inside defensively, changing shots and daring anyone to come inside. She spent the night tangling with Jacqui Brugliera. Those were easily the most hard-fought of Brugliera’s life. Ditto the way she wore out Hanna Johansson of Alaska-Anchorage the night before in the quarterfinals.
|2012 DII CHAMPIONSHIPS|
“I love a defensive challenge” Daughtery said. “When I got to college I guess I kind of decided that I really I like to play defense. So whenever I have a good challenge and be able to lock someone down, I love to be able to do that.
“Today and yesterday I’ve gone against some very talented girls. So I know going into every game that I need to rebound and take my open shots. Going into games like these knowing I have a great defensive assignment, that gets me excited for the game.”
Ashland appeared headed for another easy win. Jenna Stutzman score six of the team’s first 10 points. With a little over five minutes gone, it led by 13 and stretched the lead to 20 at 33-13 when Daughtery ended her nine-point barrage on 3-pointer with 6:33 left.
Seemingly, this is exactly where Bentley wanted Ashland. To reach the semifinals the Eagles had to dig out of a 19-point hole to fend off the nation’s No. 1 team Wayne State (Neb.) 72-67. Why not again?
Brugliera asserted herself scoring nine points in Bentley’s a 15-0 run to get to within five before Stutzman’s 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining put Ashland up 38-30 at halftime.
“At the half, down eight we were OK,” Bentley coach Barbara Stevens said. “We felt good about the fact that we were within striking distance. At the same time we realized how tough it was to get back into that striking distance. We cut it to six in the second half [three times, the last at 46-40]. We had that magic before and we were hoping for it again.”
It wasn’t to be as Ashland managed the second half and the lead with relative ease against a Bentley team that was visibly spent from the level of energy expended from the previous three come-from-behind wins, and against Ashland.
“We needed our best effort tonight and I am not sure we gave it,” Stevens said. “I thought the game yesterday took a lot out of us. I saw signs of fatigue early in the game, and their defense was tremendous. When we thought we had them scrambling, they hit the big shot. And they played tremendous defense.”
Which forced Bentley to shoot just 31.4 percent from the floor, courtesy largely of Daughtery. She gave Bentley fits on both ends and took away any hope of a win.
“This team was not as tall as Alaska-Anchorage,” Daughtery said. “They weren’t as big. It was really hard to go inside against their players. You saw the result of that. We kicked right back out. Jenna [Stutzman] and [Lindsay] Tenyak had great games.
“Our guards were fantastic job of getting the ball in the post. Especially in positions where we can score. A lot of times posts don’t like to give up position when they have a seal. Our guards gave it right where we needed it to score. And when they started doubling, Alyssa [Miller] and Ashley (Dorner) and Jena relocated to spots where it was easy to hit them [for open shots]. It wasn’t that hard. All I had to do was turn and they were right there.”
• Daugherty playing for more than wins