Given the chance, Daugherty delivers
Dec. 1, 2007
By Matt Herb, Special To The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - Sitting out doesn't sit well with Sonya Daugherty. That's why her first season at Southeast Missouri State was so difficult.
Daugherty was unaccustomed to life as a little-used reserve when she left for SEMO in 2005. She had been indispensable at Hancock High, averaging nearly 28 points a game to rank seventh in Missouri prep history.
But Daugherty spent most of her freshman season on the bench. She played only 77 minutes all season, averaging 1.6 points on a senior-laden team. It was a big disappointment.
"I knew it would be hard to get playing time, but I figured I would play some," she said. "I knew I was better than some of the seniors on the team. I just didn't get in the games."Advertisement
Everything changed last season. With the Redhawks in the midst of an Ohio Valley Conference title run, first-year coach John Ishee turned to Daugherty. She responded by winning MVP honors at the league tournament and amassing her first career double-double in a loss to Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Now, with her junior season under way, Daugherty is one of SEMO's brighter stars. She was the team's leading scorer in three of its first seven games and will get plenty of defensive attention Sunday when the Redhawks visit Purdue.
"Her game has really grown by leaps and bounds," Ishee said. "I think a lot of it is just the natural maturation process of going from a high school senior to a college junior. It takes time. There are a lot of adjustments for kids when they leave high school for the Division I level, whether it's Southeast Missouri State or Baylor or Tennessee or UConn."
Daugherty's ascent began last December in a game at Baylor. The Redhawks trailed 41-17 at halftime, so Ishee started her in the second half. She ended up scoring a team-high 12 points, all after the break. Said Ishee, "She showed that offensively, she could play with people like that."
Her defense improved as the season went on, and by February she was a force. She averaged 19.8 points in three games at the OVC tournament and followed it up with a 25-point, 10-rebound outburst against third-seeded Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament.
The Redhawks lost to the Sooners 74-60, but Daugherty looks back on it as a confidence-builder. "It let me know that I can basically play with anybody," she said.
The Redhawks (4-3) have a lot of work ahead of them if they hope build on last season's 24-8 record. They graduated center Lachelle Lyles, who averaged an astounding 17 rebounds a game last season, and "aren't as mentally tough as last year's team yet," Ishee said. A challenging nonconference schedule has exposed some of their shortcomings. SEMO lost both games at the New Mexico State Thanksgiving Classic last weekend.
But Ishee believes the Redhawks will benefit from playing tough games against big-time opponents. "Hopefully, come late February, this team will be as good as last year's team," he said.