Daugherty's 24 points help Ashland advance past Western Washington
SAN ANTONIO -- The Ashland Eagles will get another shot at winning a national title.
Ashland defeated the Western Washington Vikings 66-54 in the semifinals Wednesday at the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Championship in a battle of No. 1 seeds. Ashland (36-1) will take on third-seeded Dowling for the national crown on Friday at Bill Greehey Arena.
Dowling was a a 76-54 winner against No. 6 Augustana (S.D.).
The Eagles advanced to last year's final, also played at St. Mary's (Texas), and fell 88-82 to Shaw in overtime. Western Washington wrapped up the year with a 29-5 record.
Ashland has become the first team to make consecutive appearances in the national championship game since Cal Poly Pomona won three consecutive crowns from 2001-2003.
"It's been a 365-day journey, and we've taken it one step at a time," Ashland coach Sue Ramsey said. "Ultimately, this is where this team has worked so hard to return. The heart and soul of the team has been to love and serve the Lord has really brought us together. It's something that our theme of Hebrews 12: 1-3 is all about, keep your eyes fixed, and your focus of finishing the race."
Ashland held a 29-19 advantage at halftime, shooting 52 percent to 35 percent for Western Washington. But the Vikings Corinn Waltrip lit up the scoreboard with 22 points in the half. Kari Daugherty and Daiva Gerbec each scored 10 points in the opening half.
The Eagles recorded their largest lead of the game, by 14 points, 51-37 at the 7:51 mark in the second half. The Vikings closed to within seven 51-58 as Waltrip drained a 3-pointer at 2:34. Gerbec hit two free throws and later made a layup as Ashland led 62-51 at 1:53. The Eagles shot 52 percent in the second half, while the Vikings shot 35 percent.
In the game, Ashland finished with 44 percent (24-54) from the field, and limited Western Washington to 30 percent (18-61). The Eagles held a 43-35 advantage in rebounds.
Daugherty is ranked No. 3 in Division II scoring, averaging more than 22 points prior to Wednesday's game. She poured in 24 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, blocked three shots and dished out four assists.
"The team focused at halftime on getting better ball movement," Daugherty said. "In the first half, we were stalling it, and relying on one on one. In the second half, everyone stepped up a little bit."
Gerbec completed the matchup with 19 points and seven rebounds.
Waltrip scored only six points in the second half for the Vikings, and finished with 28 points. She shot 10-20 from the field and sank all five free throws. Britt Harris added 11 points and contributed nine rebounds.
"This team just doesn't break," Ramsey added. "It's a definition of toughness. The resiliency, the heart and the mindset of this team is just amazing."