Just when it seemed like Western Washington was on the verge of breaking through against second-ranked Ashland (Ohio), something went wrong...
SAN ANTONIO — Just when it seemed like Western Washington was on the verge of breaking through against second-ranked Ashland (Ohio), something went wrong — whether it was a turnover, foul or giving up a quick basket.
“They always seemed to have an answer,” Western coach Carmen Dolfo said.
Western endured its share of tough breaks in the NCAA Division II Final Four, falling to Ashland 66-54 on Wednesday at Bill Greehey Arena.
The Vikings (29-4) were held to their lowest point total of the season and struggled from the field, making just 18 of 61 shots (29.5 percent).
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“When you’re in a close championship game, you can’t make those little mistakes,” said senior guard Corinn Waltrip, who had a game-high 28 points. “And we made way too many of those mistakes.”
They also couldn’t find an answer for Eagles star Kari Daugherty, the Division II player of the year, who scored 24 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Daugherty blanketed Western senior post Britt Harris, limiting her to 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting.
“When they were trying to make their comeback, they kept trying to get it to her,” Daugherty said. “I took it personally to try to keep her from scoring.”
Ashland (36-1) advances to play Dowling (N.Y.) — a 76-54 winner over Augustana (S.D.) — for the Division II championship on Friday. Ashland lost in last year’s title game.
A day after shooting 55 percent in their Elite Eight win, the Vikings came out cold, making only 1 of 14 shots in the first 10 minutes against Ashland.
“We played very tentative,” Dolfo said. “We just needed to relax.”
The Eagles didn’t shoot particularly well, either, in the half (37 percent) but took a 29-19 lead into halftime thanks to Daugherty, who had 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the half. Ashland center Daiva Gerbec scored 19.
Western battled back in the second, cutting Ashland’s lead to 35-33 after back-to-back three-pointers from Jenni White and Katie Colard.
The Eagles then reeled off a 14-2 run to build an 14-point advantage with less than eight minutes remaining.
White soon fouled out on a borderline call, putting the Eagles in the bonus with 8:57 remaining.
Waltrip single-handedly kept Western in it, scoring 16 straight points in the final 10 minutes, but the Vikings never got closer than eight.
“I just saw some openings and I tried to take them,” Waltrip said. “I didn’t want to lose.”
Still, the Western players viewed getting to San Antonio as a huge accomplishment, especially after seeing injured senior Erika Ramstead (foot) take the court in the final seconds.
The team wears an “ER” patch on its jerseys in honor of Ramstead’s father, Erik, who died after a long battle with cancer in January.
“Before Erika’s dad died, he said he believed in us and that we could get to Texas,” said Waltrip, holding back tears. “And we did, and Erika wanted more than anything to be on that court … to know that he was looking down on her tonight.”