Kari Daugherty scored 26 points and Taylor Woods 20 last night to lead Ashland over Dowling 71-56 in the Division II national championship game in San Antonio for the Eagles’ first title.
Daugherty shot 11 of 19 from the field and Woods was 6 of 10. Watterson graduate Daiva Gerbec added eight points and eight rebounds for the Eagles (37-1), who led 38-25 at the half.
Ashland solved the Golden Lions defense, which led the nation in fewest points allowed per game (47.8) and opponent field-goal percentage (30.8).
Danielle Wilson led Dowling (30-4) with 15 points.
The win avenged Ashland’s 88-82 overtime loss to Shaw in last year’s title game.
Columbus Dispatch Photo By Tom E. Puskar, Ashland’s Daiva Gerbec (42) is outreached for the ball against Western Washington on Wednesday.
Columbus Dispatch By Mark Znidar, March 29, 2013 - Almost a year ago, Daiva Gerbec sat on the end of the bench and watched Ashland lose in the Division II championship game. Her season had ended before it could begin when her left Achilles tendon snapped during a running drill in the first workout of the preseason. Not being able to contribute during that 88-82 overtime loss to Shaw was difficult.
“I saw it all, and it was amazing,” Gerbec said. “But it also was horrible — awful. I saw all of the excitement, and it was frustrating not to be part of it.”
The 6-foot senior forward from Watterson will be a big part of the Eagles’ plan when they again play for the national championship, facing Dowling at 8 tonight in Greehey Arena in San Antonio. She is averaging 14.8 points and 9.4 rebounds and has started all 37 games.
Although Gerbec has a year of eligibility remaining, this probably will be her last game. One reason is that she plans to enter medical school. She is an academic All-American with a 3.9 grade-point average in biochemistry.
The other reason is that she wants to give back. “I want to take a year off from school for a year of service,” Gerbec said. “There is a group of nuns from the Cleveland-Youngstown area, and I want to work with them. They have so many programs for people. I want to help the needy.”
It goes back to Gerbec believing God has a plan for her. She thought that when the doctor told her the severity of her injury.
“I’m a big believer in the Lord,” she said. “I wanted to come back for my teammates. I realized we had a chance to compete for a national championship. I took the rehab one day at a time. I trusted my doctors and my trainers. I rehabbed like crazy. I said if it was going to tear, it was going to tear.”
There was little doubt that Gerbec would return to form before the opener when she totaled 18 points and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes in a 79-77 victory over Dayton in an exhibition game. The Flyers went on to reach the Division I NCAA Tournament.
“I was ready,” she said.
Ashland (36-1) has powered through the tournament in winning five games behind Gerbec and center Kari Daugherty, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s national player of the year. Gerbec has been strong during the 16-team finals in San Antonio, scoring 23 in a 74-63 victory over Gannon in a quarterfinal and 19 in a 66-54 victory over Western Washington in a semifinal.
Last year seems so far away. “All we wanted was a chance, and now we have that,” Gerbec said. “ We take every game as if it could be our last. We’ve been thinking about this the whole season. To be here again seems unreal.”