Daugherty keys win over Michigan Tech

By Chris Bils

It’s a cliché in college basketball that it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season.

Ashland knew it would not be easy to take down Michigan Tech for the third time in Saturday’s Midwest Regional semifinal, but Kari Daugherty was simply amazing in a 67-54 win over the Huskies.

The senior forward had 32 points, 13 rebounds and three assists, including 12 points in the final 10:02 that helped the Eagles pull away.

“We know that God’s brought us together here for a plan and for a time, this time that we have together,” AU head coach Sue Ramsey said. “…We’re just thankful we have another day to keep playing for Him.”

It was eerily reminiscent of the 28 and 22 performance Daugherty had in the same round of last year’s tournament run in that she just would not let her team go down. The look in her eyes—including the black and blue one that got poked in Friday’s game—was one of sheer intensity and focus.

“I felt very confident when I got the ball,” Daugherty said. “I wanted the ball at the end of the shot clock whenever we needed to score.”

Ashland rode the inside presence of Daugherty and senior forward Daiva Gerbec for much of the game. Gerbec had 12 points, 11 rebounds and three assists, helping AU gain a 32-12 advantage in points in the paint.

Michigan Tech played the Eagles tough as usual, matching a 12-2 Ashland run to start the game with a 14-4 run that tied the game with 8:44 to play in the first half.

From there the teams traded blows right to the halftime buzzer, when the Eagles led 30-28. It was a stretch that lived up to the respect-filled rivalry between the region’s most consistent programs.

“Both groups of players play hard, play the game right, principles are very good… I just think that there’s a great level of respect for what you’ve done with your program,” MTU head coach Kim Cameron said.

Ashland threw the first punch again in the second half, jumping out to a 39-30 lead before the first media timeout.

The Huskies fought back again to cut the lead to four and got a break when AU junior guard Alyssa Miller had to sit down with three fouls.

Then redshirt sophomore guard Chelsea Laporte came off the bench and hit a huge three to push the lead back to seven at 46-39.

“I couldn’t be happier for anybody than Chelsea,” Ramsey said. “What she’s gone through with surgery after surgery and she loves the game as much as anybody.”

Big 3-pointers by MTU’s Kelcey Traynoff and Paige Albi cut it to 48-45, but Daugherty was not to be denied. She scored Ashland’s next 10 points as part of a 12-2 run that broke the game open.

Daugherty finished 12 of 19 from the field and a perfect 8 of 8 from the free throw line.

For the third game in a row, sophomore guard Taylor Woods hit a dagger, this time to push the lead to 14 with 4:38 to play. Woods was the most efficient guard for the Eagles, scoring 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting from the field and 2 of 3 from behind the arc.

“It’s just really important to know when to attack and know when that will be open,” Woods said.

The Huskies were extremely difficult to guard on the perimeter. Five different players hit 3-pointers as they went 9 of 19 from deep compared to 3 of 9 shooting from Ashland.

Michigan Tech senior guard Sam Hoyt was harassed by Miller all night and was held to 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting. Senior guard Emma Veach and freshman forward Jillian Ritchie each had 12 points to lead MTU.

Ashland moves on to Monday’s regional final, where they will face the winner of Saturday’s first game, Wayne State. That game starts at 7 p.m.

A day of rest will serve the Eagles well after two hard-fought tournament victories.

“I need a nap,” Ramsey said.