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Feb. 1, 2007
By Marty Mishow ~ Southeast Missourian
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - Sonya Daugherty ranks among the most prolific scorers in the history of Missouri high school girls basketball.
People who have watched Southeast Missouri State play over the past few weeks now know why.
After seeing little action as a freshman last year and getting off to a slow start this season, Daugherty has all of a sudden turned into one of the Ohio Valley Conference's top offensive players.
It's amazing what some confidence -- and a healthy dose of court time -- has done for the sophomore guard from St. Louis.
"I've just got my confidence now," the soft-spoken Daugherty said. "I think that's the biggest part of it."
There is no official award handed out for most improved player in the OVC, but if there was such an honor, Daugherty would no doubt be a leading candidate.
"I don't think there's any question about that," Southeast acting head coach John Ishee said.
Last year, playing for a loaded team that won Southeast's first OVC regular-season and tournament titles and advanced to the NCAA Division I tournament for the first time in program history, Daugherty was barely noticed.
The 5-foot-7 Daugherty finished her rookie campaign averaging 4.1 minutes and 1.5 points per game. She scored just 29 points all year.
"It was a little frustrating, not playing that much, but we had such a good team," Daugherty said.
Daugherty began this season again in rather anonymous fashion.
Although her playing time increased somewhat, she still averaged just five points in the Redhawks' first four games.
Daugherty played what was then a season-high 23 minutes during a Dec. 2 game at nationally ranked Baylor, and she broke into double figures offensively for the first time as a sophomore with 12 points.
She added two more double-figure scoring performances over Southeast's following six games -- both in OVC play -- netting 13 points against Tennessee State and 14 points against Samford.
Still, Daugherty was hardly among the Redhawks' top offensive weapons -- until a Jan. 4 OVC home matchup with Eastern Illinois.
Daugherty torched the Panthers for a team-high 23 points -- and she basically hasn't looked back since.
Counting that contest against Eastern Illinois, Daugherty has been the Redhawks' leading scorer in six of their past eight games.
Primarily using a quick first step to blow past opponents and showing an uncanny ability to finish around the basket, Daugherty has become Southeast's second-leading scorer with an average of 12.4 points per game, which ranks 12th in the OVC.
And in conference play only, Daugherty leads the Redhawks with a 15.8 average, which is fourth-best in the league.
In her last eight games, Daugherty is averaging 18.3 points, including a career-high 26 against Tennessee State. She has scored less than 10 points just once during that stretch.
"Sonya is really playing well. She has given us a big lift with her offense, because we're not an overpowering team," Ishee said. "I think it's just confidence and game experience."
Ishee -- whose squad is 15-6 overall and tied for first place in the OVC at 10-3 -- is also quick to credit Daugherty's improved defense.
"She's playing a lot better defense, which is what got her a lot more minutes in the first place," Ishee said. "On this team, you have to guard or it's hard to get minutes."
Daugherty smiled when asked if the way she is playing now is similar to what she experienced at Hancock High School, where she averaged 27.5 points over her career and scored 2,703 points to become the all-time leading scorer in St. Louis prep history. She finished among the top 10 in state history.
"It's like I played in high school, driving all the time," Daugherty said. "I love to drive. I'd rather drive than shoot [from the outside]."
Daugherty has displayed a decent outside shot -- she is hitting a respectable 34.1 percent from 3-point range, having made 15 of 44 -- but it is her ability to attack the basket that has set her apart.
"We want Sonya to attack," Ishee said. "She's very quick and she has the ability to get to the basket. And she's real good at finishing."
Daugherty, who is also second on the Redhawks in steals with 22 and third in assists with 45, said she is not surprised that her game has finally started to resemble what it did in high school.
"I'm just getting back to my normal self, really," she said.
Daugherty's emergence has given the Redhawks a fourth solid scoring option to go with their calling cards of defense and rebounding.
"The more weapons we can have out there, the better," Ishee said. "Defense and rebounding is what we really hang our hat on, but you also have to score."
While Daugherty said she is willing to do whatever it takes to help the Redhawks, her offensive surge has been a major factor in helping Southeast reel off 12 wins in its last 14 games and make a strong push for its second straight OVC title.
"We've had a lot of people play well in different areas, but I think Sonya has been a really big part of our success so far," Ishee said.