AU Live

Memorable Moments: March 20 vs. Alaska-Anchorage and March 21 vs. Bentley

Memorable Moments: March 20 vs. Alaska-Anchorage and March 21 vs. Bentley

By Chris Bils

March 23, 2012

The 2011-12 Ashland women’s basketball season has been one to remember. The team has won 33 straight games and will play for the national championship 8 p.m. tonight in San Antonio. Over the last three weeks, the Eagles hosted and won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and NCAA Mi...

Eagles keep dancing in National Championship

Press Conference 1

By Chris Bils

March 23, 2012

SAN ANTONIO — Great players play great in big games. Never was that saying truer than in Ashland’s 77-62 victory over Bentley in the NCAA Division II Women’s Final Four in San Antonio. The win propels the Eagles into the national championship game, which will be 8 p.m. Friday against Shaw (N.C.). Junior All-American forward Kari Daugherty tied a career high with 31 points, grabbed 22 rebounds – one shy of tying a tournament record – and dished out six assists while senior guard Jena Stutzman had 22 points, five rebounds and three assists for the Eagles. Stutzman started the game on fire, scoring seven points and dishing out an assist in transition before the first media timeout as Ashland took a 15-2 lead. The Eagles were looking good, and after Daugherty scored eight points over a span of just over three minutes they led 33-13 with 6:33 to play in the first half. Just as Bentley did in an 18-point comeback against nationally-ranked no. 1 Wayne State (Neb.), the Falcons fought back to within five before the half was over. Just when it looked like the momentum was shifting Bentley’s way, Stutzman made one of the defining plays of her career. She held the ball between the center circle and the 3-point line as the clock wound down at the end of the first half. “I was going to try to get some penetration and just try to get a jump shot off or a dish to the post, but then she backed off me so I was like, ‘Ooh, I’m just gonna let it fly,’” Stutzman said. The ball flew straight through the bottom of the net for three points that put the Eagles up 38-30 going into halftime and did a lot to raise their morale going into the second half. “That was huge going into halftime,” Daugherty said. “It really gave us the momentum going into the second half.” Bentley opened the second half with two quick baskets that cut the lead to four and would cut it to three (40-37) with just under two minutes gone. That would be as close as the Falcons would come, however. The Eagles used stingy defense, a rebounding edge of 11 and – as always – excellent free throw shooting (14 of 16) to hold off another Bentley comeback. “I think one great thing about our team is that we never get shaken,” Stutzman said. “We never get down, we’re confident in each other, we’re always huddling on the floor, we’re always saying ‘defense and rebounding, defense and rebounding’ because you can’t win games trading baskets with a team.” The Eagles also got big shots on the offensive end from players other than Stutzman and Daugherty, especially once the Falcons began pouring players onto Daugherty when she caught the ball in the post. She repeatedly found the open player, leading to clutch shots from junior forward Beth Mantkowski, sophomore guard Alyssa Miller and sophomore forward Ashley Dorner. “Alyssa and Ashley and everyone relocated to a spot where it was easy to hit them,” Duagherty said. It wasn’t that hard, all I had to do was turn and they were right there and they were able to knock down some shots. “It was just a great overall team game. We could not have beaten a team of that caliber without everyone playing their best basketball.” Miller finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists, Dorner had ten points and four rebounds and Mantkowski had two points and two rebounds in ten minutes. With just over three minutes left and the Eagles up by 10, Daugherty hit a 3-pointer from the left wing. On Ashland’s next possession, Stutzman hit another “3” from the exact same spot and just like that the game was out of reach. The focus now shifts to the national championship. Just like Ashland, Shaw has never won a national title. That will change come Friday night. No matter what happens, however, there is only one player who will be playing her last game in an Ashland uniform. “This has been our goal all year, and I feel so blessed to get to play my last game in the national championship,” Stutzman said. “I couldn’t ask for a better team and better coaches, and it’s an amazing feeling.”