Ashland bolts by Dowling for program's first national championship
SAN ANTONIO -- The Ashland Eagles emerged as the NCAA Division II women's basketball champions with a 71-56 victory against the Dowling Golden Lions Friday night at Bill Greehey Arena.
A year made a big difference, as Ashland (37-1) finished as runner-up to Shaw at last year's tournament, also held in San Antonio. Shaw edged Ashland 88-82 in an overtime championship game in 2012.
"I think the biggest difference is we were on this stage last year," Ashland coach Sue Ramsey said, whose Eagles became the first team to reach the title game in back-to-back years since Cal Poly Pomona won consecutive championships in 2001 and 2002. "Experience is a good thing, but, unless you take advantage of it, it doesn't man much. [The players] have been a determined group of young ladies. We worked on being more of an offensive threat, we learned to be stronger, and our team defense was solid throughout the year."
Ashland senior guard Kari Daugherty lit up the arena with 26 points, and 12 rebounds. Daugherty, selected as the Tournament Most Outstanding Player, recorded her NCAA-best 25th double-double of the campaign. Earlier, Daugherthy was selected as the NCAA Division II Player of the Year for the second consecutive time.
"Everyone was really prepared [Friday]," Daugherthy said, a former Dayton Flyer, ranked third in NCAA Division II scoring. "We were ready mentally, physically and spiritually. We knew what we had to do to win. People stepped up and made big shots. That's what we've done all season. Everyone stuck to the way we play. No one tried to be a hero and change the run. We all stayed toghether. I think that was difference from last year."
The Eagles' runs began early, as they jumped out to an 18-point lead, 31-13, with 4:54 remaining in the first half. Ashland led 38-25 at the time of intermission, with Dowling getting no closer than eight points. Ashland extended the advantage to 19 (63-44), by the time 8:13 rolled around on the clock in the second half. Dowling, playing in its first Elite Eight, did not pull closer than 15 points in the second half of play.
"We had a chance to cut it to seven at one point," Dowling coach Joe Pellicane said, whose Golden Lions completed the year with a 30-4 record, and were ranked No. 1 in scoring defense (47.8 points per game). "They spaced the ball beautifully, and limited shots. They played the game inside-out, and they had us on our heels. It was constantly uphill."
Ashland shot 47.2 percent (25-53) from the field, and made 8-18 3-pointers, for 47.2 percent. Dowling managed only 38.5 percent shooting (20-52) from the floor, and 25 percent (4-16) beyond the arc. The Eagles led 34-23 in rebounding, and 28-19 in defensive boards.
The Eagles' Taylor Woods added 20 points and five rebounds, the only other Ashland player in double figures.
Dowling senior forward Danielle Wilson, who played three seasons at Baylor, led the Golden Lions with 15 points and six rebounds, while senior guard Connie Simmons added 13 points. Junior forward Julia Koppl scored 11 points for Dowling.
The All-Tournament Team was announced after the game, highlighted by Daugherty's top accolade. Also selected from Ashland were Woods, and senior forward Daiva Gerbec. Wilson and Simmons were the honorees from Dowling.