‘AU Eagle Basketball’ secures a national championship

By Chris Bils

“AU Eagle Basketball” cannot be explained in a sentence. It cannot be accomplished with just one person. It is not just the five players on the floor at any given time. It is the vision of one woman—head coach Sue Ramsey—and what she calls playing the game the right way, and it takes a whole team.

Friday night, Ashland played “AU Eagle Basketball” for 40 minutes, and it was beautiful. The result was a 71-56 win in the national championship game over Dowling College.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled and more happy with the performance, not only today, but for the last 365 days,” Ramsey said. “They were a determined group of young ladies when we left here last year runners-up, and they worked hard to make this season everything that it was.”

Senior forward Kari Daugherty was spectacular. She finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, including several shots down the stretch that killed any momentum the Golden Lions were starting to gain.

“I just think that everyone was really prepared today,” Daugherty said. “Mentally, physically, spiritually, everything. When we came into the game, we knew what we needed to do to be able to win and people stepped up and hit big shots.”

The Eagles executed their offense to near perfection from start to finish against a Dowling defense that was billed as the best in the nation coming in. They started 9 of 12 from the field and jumped out to a 20-7 lead.

Meanwhile, the Golden Lions could never get into a flow. They shot 36 percent (9 of 25) in the first half and 38.5 percent (20 of 52) for the game.

Dowling senior forward Danielle Wilson, a transfer from Baylor, led the way with 15 points and six rebounds, but was kept out of the middle most of the night by Daugherty and senior forward Daiva Gerbec.

The Eagles took a 38-25 lead into halftime after senior forward Ashley Dorner drilled a jumper with six seconds left. Both teams came out firing, and the Golden Lions cut the lead to eight (48-40) with 12:35 to play on a shot by Connie Simmons.

Then sophomore guard Taylor Woods cemented her spot on the Elite Eight all-tournament team with a 3-pointer that was assisted by senior guard Lindsay Tenyak.

Woods finished with 20 points, five rebounds and three assists. Joining her on the all-tournament team were Gerbec, Wilson, Simmons and Daugherty, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.

Fittingly, the dagger came at the hands of Daugherty. With 8:51 to play, the Golden Lions appeared to get a stop on a block by Julie Koppl, but Tenyak did not give up on the play and saved it to junior guard Alyssa Miller, who found Daugherty with three seconds left on the shot clock.

“I had honestly just told Alyssa, ‘slow it down. We’re fine. Just run motion,’” Daugherty said. “… I just took it and as the ball went through the hoop I saw the light go off and I’m like, ‘Oh, that was good timing I guess.’”

Then, following a made free throw by Wilson, Daugherty drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to push the lead to 19 at 63-44 with 8:13 to play.

From there, it was only a matter of how many players Ramsey could get on the floor to share in the moment.

“To be able to say that we are the best team in Division II basketball is incredible,” Daugherty said. “Only one team gets to say that a year and to be the team that gets to say that is incredibly humbling.”