Darosa’s OT heroics lift ASA-New York to huge upset of Cowley County, 87-80
LUBBOCK, Texas – Playing on a sprained left medial collateral ligament, Diandra Darosa wasn’t sure what kind of game she was going to have as she and her ASA-New York teammates opened the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship.
Turns out it was a night to remember. Darosa came off the bench to score a game-high 23 points, including 10 in the decisive overtime period, and the Lady Avengers pulled off the huge upset with an 87-80 victory over Cowley County in the first round on Monday at the Rip Griffin Center.
“At the beginning of the game I had the jitters and I didn’t know how much I could go with one leg,” Darosa said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to put myself under that pressure that if we did advance I wouldn’t be able to play. When I realized the game was getting too close I was like, you know what, if my leg gives out it gives out. I have to finish this game. I’m glad everyone did their part a glad we came out with the victory.”
Shakila Small and Sakara Torres scored 14 points apiece for the 23rd-seeded Lady Avengers (21-2), who pulled off the biggest upset since the tournament expanded to 24 teams in 2012-13 by beating the 10th-seeded Lady Tigers (27-8).
And it came after ASA trailed 22-6 at the end of the first quarter and by 10 early in the fourth quarter before taking a lead on a pair of 7-0 runs, all while playing without starting center Cheridene Green, who tore here anterior cruciate ligament last week and is out for the season.
“Down 22-6 end of the first quarter, to come back, force it to overtime and win, my point guard playing on one leg, I can’t say anything else,” ASA coach Thomas Davis said. “This is the second game in two years without (Green) and she does a lot for us. We didn’t have much time to prepare without her. We just had to play New York-style basketball and get a little gritty and get in their face and see what they had.”
ASA took control of the game for good by starting the overtime period with a 12-3 run to go up 79-70 with just under 2 minutes remaining. Cowley County, making its first appearance in the tournament since 1989, could not recover.
Devon Branch led the Lady Tigers with 20 points and Rijanna Lainge added 17 in the losing effort. Amy O’Neil chipped in 10.
“We knew they are very athletic and their length really bothered us,” Cowley County head coach Todd Clark said. “I thought especially midway through the third quarter into the fourth quarter they out played us and outhustled us. We shot it well early and I thought we could stretch the floor and do some stuff, but we got a little tight and the shots didn’t go in for us. We haven’t been here in a long time and I thought we played like we haven’t been here in a long time.”
Cowley County’s defense did a good job putting the clamps on ASA’s shooters. The Lady Avengers shot just 31 percent (9 of 19) from the floor in the first half, including a 2-for-12 mark from 3-point range.
That allowed the Lady Tigers to jump out to a quick lead early by scoring 10 of the first 11 points of the game and then close the first quarter on a 9-0 run to take a 22-6 advantage. Cowley wasn’t much better from 3-point range (4 o 17) but made up for it by getting to the free throw line and going 10 for 12 from the stripe in the first half.
Lainge proved to be a tough matchup even for the athletic Lady Avengers. Lainge scored a game-high 11 first-half points. But maybe more importantly the Lady Tigers had just five first-half turnovers and outrebounded ASA 21-19.
The Lady Avengers chipped away at their deficit in the second quarter and used a 7-0 run to pull to within 31-20 with 3:48 left in the first half. Later, trailing 34-20, Small scored five of her team-high nine first-half points to cut the Cowley lead to single digits before Devon Branch hit two free throws late to push it to 36-25 at halftime.
Cowley kept that lead in double digits and led 43-32 early in the third period before ASA began chipping away, allowing them to close to within striking distance at 54-46 to start the fourth quarter.
The Lady Tigers’ lead ballooned to 10 with 9:01 to play before Torres keyed a 7-0 run with her lone 3-pointer of the game, then Darosa added her only one later in the period, and a putback by Cuevas gave ASA the lead at 63-61.