Making half the field goals for FDU-Florham in their semifinal victory against Tufts, Mid-Atlantic Region Player of the Year Kyra Dayon lifted the Devils to their first national championship game. She finished with a game-high 17 points along with five rebounds against -- including a crucial offensive board in the closing seconds with a three-point lead.
"She's an unbelievable player, unbelievable athlete," said Tufts head coach Carla Berube, "her first step is extremely quick … it's tough to defend. Our help defense would be there but she would pull up before the help could get there."
Dayon has led the Devils in scoring each of her first three seasons and became the 14th player in FDU-Florham history to surpass the 1,000 point career milestone. Playing alongside her every step of the journey has been twin sister Kara.
"It's amazing," Kyra stated, "playing with her at the college level and cherish every moment."
Kara added, "We always talked about playing together in college, we wanted to go to the same school."
Kara is averaging 9.2 points per game, leads the squad with 58 three-pointers, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and ranks second on the team in steals and minutes played, trailing only sister Kyra in both categories.
Following a big loss to Amherst a few years back, FDU-Florham head coach Marc Mitchell recalls telling his assistant coaches, "We need to get players like that!"
"These two [Kyra and Kara], along with Leigh-Ann Lively, Delisha Thompson, that junior class is the foundation to the beginning of our culture we created at FDU."
Since the Dayon twins arrived on campus in 2010, the Devils finished 13-13 for the first .500 season in four years at FDU. This consisted of five losses by six points or less. The following year, the Devils finished 24-4, won the Freedom Conference and earned their first bid to the NCAA tournament. Now at 32-0, they are just one win away from a national championship.
"[Coach Mitchell] is always joking around and that helps calm our nerves," stated Kara, "It helps us just release and relax."
"Playing for coach is different," Kyra agreed, "We are able to open up and show people how we like to play and joke around. He is a very animated coach, so that rubs off on us."
From the Garden State to the Evergreen State, nearly 3,000 miles away, on opposite coasts, FDU-Florham meets Whitman College (Walla Walla, WA) on Saturday night to determine the NCAA Division III National Champion.
Whitman has taken a similar route to the NCAA Division III title game knocking off five consecutive ranked teams with an average margin of victory nearing 15 points, including a 15-point victory over Whitewater in the semifinals.
Another similarity, is the Missionaries also have a pair of sisters on their roster. Freshman Chelsi Brewer and senior Tiffani Traver will play their final game together in Saturday's national championship game.
"It's a dream of a parent to have," stated Marshall Brewer, father of Tiffani and Chelsi, "when your daughters are playing ball and the chance to win a national title, but to have two daughters on the same team with a chance to win, that's a little different dynamic."
"It's goal they always had from the time they started playing," said Brenda Brewer, mother of Tiffani and Chelsi, "to be able together on the same team."
Four years apart, this is the first opportunity Tiffani and Chelsi have had to play together besides a four-week spring league. Now they play their final game together pursuing a national title.
Chelsi is averaging over 10 minutes a game in her rookie season and put in a career high 12 points on February 7, 2013, against Pacific Lutheran.
"Coming in as a freshman, it's been a lot easier to have her here," Chelsi continued. "Guarding her everyday in practice is fun, except for when she makes a 3 in my face. But that's an everyday occurrence."
An everyday occurrence both in practice and games as Tiffani is among the best 3-point shooters in the country at 40.1 percent. Chelsi mentioned that two things she picked up watching her sister is her quick release and tough defense.
"For me, freshman year was hard to adapt and change my mindset," Tiffani shared, "I was able to help her with that and told her 'it works and have faith in what coach is doing.' "
Tonight, they meet up with another set of sisters -- the Dayon twins from FDU.
"We're excited. They're a pretty dynamic duo," Tiffani continued, "One of them is a great outside shooter and the other gets to the rim well. I think we got our hands full, but we're excited and ready to accept the challenge."