Even though Lower Columbia College is right up the road from Cherita Daugherty’s hometown of Vancouver, the route was a long a winding one that kept her away from the game she loves for a year and a half.
There was hype surrounding her before her arrival and some around the Northwest Athletic Conference were quietly wondering if that hype was misplaced.
Daugherty put her foot down on Wednesday. She commanded the game with her decision making, her scoring, rebounding and defensive instincts to the tune of 28 points, 14 rebounds (5 offensive), 10 assists with three steals and a late resounding block. As far as she could recall, it was her first lifetime triple double.
“Honestly, it’s exciting,” Daugherty said, but was quick to redirect the credit. “I have really good teammates. They’re really good at scoring the ball, so it’s kinda easy to rack up the assists.”
Daugherty went to Idaho after a stellar career at the power Prairie, but things went sideways there and she transferred back to LCC, where more hurdles materialized unexpectedly.
Daugherty never blinked, even while being away from the game for so long.
Her skill was never deniable. In each game with LCC this season she has been one of the best players on the court. But her assertiveness let something to be desired, and LCC head coach Lucas Myers and assistant Marquessa Gilson have been steadily pushing Daugherty to take control, to be aggressive, to take chances, to do what we brought you here to do.
Wednesday, she did just that. And it was absolutely undeniable.
“Cherita’s a special player,” Myers said. “She’s learning that she’s gotta be more aggressive. She’s had a year-and-a half off, so that’s part of it. But she can play like that every night. She’s that good. She’s a next-level player. She’s a borderline Division I player. When she wants to, she can have an impact on the game like that.
“Now, is she gonna have 28-14-10 every night? Maybe not. But she has the ability to do that.”
Daugherty led the Red Devils with 12 field goal attempts, inferring her offensive aggressiveness. She took 14 free throws. She took 24 in the 21 previous games. Her 14 rebounds led the game and her five offensive rebounds did the same. Her 3 steals tied for the game-high and her lone block was a disrespectful loud one that sent a 3-point attempt down the hallway as Tacoma launched a late 3-point attempt down four with seconds to go.
Her contributions came from everywhere and at all times.
After pulling down an offensive rebound in the first half, Myers implored his team to match her energy.
It was like all the Red Devils also saw Daugherty jump to the next level and they subconsciously stood back and let her work.
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“She literally said, in moments, ‘I’m just gonna go get us buckets and rebounds,’ Myers said, ‘and we needed it.”
Daugherty dragged LCC to a 42-34 lead at the half, overcoming an 18-16 first-quarter deficit while Mayra Rodriguez (team-high 23 points) could not miss, not matter how contested or awkward her shots were.
But in the second half, the Red Devils offense began to cough and sputter and lurch. They had as many turnovers (four) in the first two-and-a-half minutes of third quarter as they had in the previous 20 minutes. They missed their first four shots. Tacoma started to smartly collapse on Daugherty and the Devils didn’t have an answer.
Tacoma’s 8-0 run gave the Titans their first lead since its 20-16 advantage early in the second quarter. LCC needed something, anything.
Tommia Pakootas, as did her fellow reserve Ally Harman plus Daugherty, provided.
Pakootas hits 3s on consecutive possessions, the first of which took back the LCC lead and the second of which cushioned the lead enough Tacoma could never recover. Daugherty added a 3 after Tacoma cut the lead to one, then Harmen added a third when Tacoma cut it back to two.
“I put (Pakootas and Harman) in purely to make shots, and they did,” Myers said. “To me, that’s huge. It won’t show up to everybody — Oh, 6 points — but to come off the bench, having sat maybe four, five minutes, just to come in and hit shots, those are huge.”
“They’re really good at that. I don’t know how they do it. They just do it,” she said. “They get the ball to go in. They’re amazing teammates; they work really hard. (Pakootas) has the prettiest shot. Every time she shoots it I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s going in.’
“To come off like that, probably be a little cold, to be able to do that and (use) that energy for the team, that was huge. That’s how we won the game, for Mia and Ally to be able to come off and do that, it was really big.”
Lower Columbia (15-7, 6-1) visits Centralia next Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Lower Columbia 80, Tacoma 76
TACOMA — Mayra Rodriguez 23, Makanalani Montoya 16, Adrienne Washington 13, Precious Serafica 12, Princess Magadia 6, Avery Campbell 5, Meera Santos 1, Bobbie Rideout, Chloe Grosvenor.
LOWER COLUMBIA — Cherita Daugherty 28, Madison Mosier 10, Bailey Farrer 9, Tommia Pakootas 8, Melanaite Kata 6, Josie Schmitz 5, Jodi Noyes 4, Michaela Harris 4, Ally Harman 3, Chinedu Nnadi 3, Madeline Jacobson 1, Danica Schmidt.