Ashland survives, reaches Elite Eight


By Chris Bils

With 11:46 to play in Monday’s NCAA Midwest Regional Final at Kates Gymnasium, it looked like the dream might be about to die.

Ashland found itself down 50-42 and struggling to stop the bleeding after Wayne State came out of halftime on a 24-6 run.

Senior forward Kari Daugherty—who scored a combined 63 points and grabbed 27 rebounds in the two previous tournament games—sat on the bench with three fouls.

But after the final buzzer sounded, it was AU head coach Sue Ramsey who raised her hands in celebration and swung the net over her head after the Eagles secured a 72-63 victory and a second-straight trip to the Elite Eight.

It took a lot of people to get there.

“These young ladies are amazing,” Ramsey said.

It was senior forward Daiva Gerbec, drawing the third foul on WSU’s Juanita Cochran seconds later.

It was Daugherty, coming back in the game to score eight points down the stretch and finish with team-highs of 17 points and 15 rebounds after a dismal shooting display in the first half.

It was senior forward Beth Mantkowski, playing the four biggest minutes of her life, including back-to-back buckets that tied the game at 58 with 6:08 to play.

“Every day in practice as we’re rotating people around, she’s like ‘I got it,’” Ramsey said. “And she had it.”

It was junior guard Alyssa Miller, finding her jump shot at the most crucial time to tie it again at 60 a little over a minute later.

It was sophomore guard Taylor Woods, coming out fearless, draining 4 of 5 3-pointers in the first half and making several big plays near the end—including a huge steal and run-out with 2:58 to play that extended a one-point lead to a 64-61 advantage.

And Miller again, draining another jump shot while getting fouled and draining the free throws to make it 67-61.

It was the crowd of 2,832 that packed Kates, rising at the right times and chanting ‘DEFENSE’ at the top of their lungs when the team desperately needed stops.

“They totally get and embrace what these young ladies are all about, and that’s the beautiful thing,” Ramsey said.

It was a close-knit team digging deep and remembering the principles that got them there, something that is much easier said than done when the walls are closing in on a season that has taken on a life of its own.

“I thought (assistant) coach Bushby said it really well when she said, ‘Do what we’ve done all year,’” Ramsey said. “’Don’t play for the crowd, don’t play for anyone else, but play for each other and play for the Lord.’”

Ashland started the game on fire, hitting its first three attempts from 3-point range to jump out to a 9-4 lead, and extended the lead to seven on a fast break layup by senior guard Lindsay Tenyak.

That got the crowd on their feet and forced a timeout from WSU head coach Carrie Lohr.

The hot start would not last. Despite a stellar display from Woods—who had 12 points in the first period and finished with 17, five rebounds and three assists—the Eagles shot just 35.1 percent (13 of 37) and went into the locker room up 10 (36-26) after the Warriors’ Talisha Bridges drained a 25-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Daugherty had just three points at halftime on 1 of 7 shooting and Gerbec had six points (3 of 7) in a physical battle down low.

The Warriors grabbed the momentum out of the break starting with a 3-pointer by Lena Thomas and took the lead when Deanna Crumpton scored to make it 42-40 with 14:38 left.

Then, Wayne State used their advantage with Cochran down low to extend that lead over the next several minutes.

Cochran finished with 15 points and 17 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end, and five blocks.

“I tried to do more pull-ups and attack the high post instead of banging inside because Juanita’s gonna win the banging battle every time,” Daugherty said.

Bridges was also a force. She had 18 points and nine rebounds, none bigger than the shot before halftime.

Bridges and Cochran were joined on the all-tournament team by Woods, Gerbec (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Michigan Tech’s Sam Hoyt.

Daugherty was named the Player of the Tournament.

Miller was the fourth Ashland player in double digits with 12 points, four assists and two rebounds.

Ashland and Wayne State each had 48 rebounds, but the Warriors held a 23-17 advantage on the offensive glass.

“It was a battle for us,” Ramsey said. “We knew that was gonna be an important factor in the game.”

Ashland moves on to face Gannon next Tuesday at Bill Greehey Arena on the campus of Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio.