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"I just threw it up and hoped." Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

Daugherty’s Shot Put Sends Southern Utah to the Semifinals

Wednesday night at the Orleans Arena was not Southern Utah guard Cherita Daugherty’s best night.

Daugherty was 3-12 from the field. Southern Utah trailed most of the night. And Daughtery was locked down by New Mexico State.

However, all of that went up in the blink of an eye.

Coming around on the baseline, with four hands in her face, Daugherty’s night got much better as her prayer was answered.

Daugherty’s shot put as time expired found nothing but the bottom of the net to send SUU to the WAC semifinals with a 62-61 win over New Mexico State at Orleans Arena.

“It was a great shot, I guess,” SUU head coach Tracy Sanders said. “Just glad it worked out in our favor.”

New Mexico State head coach Jody Adams had a plan on Wednesday night. Put pressure on the T-Birds, be aggressive, and force SUU into uncomfortable situations.

For the first 20 minutes that game plan worked to perfection.

Tayelin Grays and the Aggies were the aggressors in the first quarter. Grays had 11 first quarter points and the Aggies held the T-Birds to just three field goals.

The game plan continued in the second quarter. New Mexico State held Southern Utah to just two field goals and four total points in the second quarter.

At one point, Tracy Sanders was yelling at her team.

“Get tougher. You’re getting out-toughed.”

Sanders was right. New Mexico State was more aggressive, more physical, and simply bullying the T-Birds.

At the break, the Aggies were in complete control, leading 30-14.

“I just told them ‘you guys worked so hard to be champions of this conference,” Sanders said of her halftime talk. “‘Like that’s how you’re gonna show up for the first half?’ I was pretty hard on them at halftime. And they responded.”

Respond the T-Birds did.

Tomekia Whitman single-handedly got the T-Birds right back in the ball game in the third quarter. Whitman hit a trio of 3-pointers as part of a 13-point third quarter to cut the deficit to one heading into the fourth quarter.

“When I get out there, I just wanna do everything I can for my team,” Whitman said. “I had struggled a little bit in the first half. Just because I wasn’t being as aggressive as I wanted to be. Coach Tracy emphasized ‘be tough, go out there and be tough. So, I got out there and was way more confident.”

Southern Utah also got some help from New Mexico State in the third quarter. The Aggies had empty possessions on nine of their first 10 possessions. In fact, the first points of the second half came with 5:01 left in the third quarter. And yet, the Aggies still led by 12 at that point.

A 10-0 run capped by a Whitman 3-pointer cut the deficit to two with 2:12 left in the third quarter.

Two SUU possessions later, Whitman knocked down another 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one. Following a New Mexico State offensive foul, Whitman then got fouled on a 3-point attempt.

Whitman sank two of the three free throws and SUU had a 35-34 lead.  It was just the second lead of the game for the T-Birds.

Soufia Inoussa hit a pair of free throws to give New Mexico State a 36-35 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

With 7:57 to play, Molly Kaiser decided to take over for the Aggies. Kaiser went on a quick 7-0 run to give New Mexico State a 45-43 lead with 6:52 to play.

However, a Cherita Daugherty 3-pointer gave the lead right back to Southern Utah. Soufia Inoussa responded with a 3-pointer of her own. Inoussa hit another 3-pointer to possessions later to tie things up at 52 with 4:22 to play.

Ashlee Strawbridge gave New Mexico State a 54-52 lead with a layup and a Sofia Inoussa free throw put the Aggies up three with 2:29 to play.

Following a Cherita Daugherty layup to cut the deficit to one with 35 seconds to play, Southern Utah decided to foul.

Sylena Peterson welcomed the opportunity. Peterson went a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line with eight seconds remaining, Peterson gave the Aggies a 61-56 lead.

Sylena Peterson hit some big free throws down the stretch for New Mexico State. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

However, after a timeout, Megan Jensen converted a 3-point play to make it a two-point game with five second to play. Southern Utah fouled Peterson.

Unfortunately for the Aggies, Peterson missed her first two free throws of the game at the wrong time. The long rebound on the second miss went out of bounds. Southern Utah got the ball with 3.4 seconds remaining.

After advancing the ball with the timeout, chaos ensued.

Cherita Daugherty will go down in Southern Utah lore forever.

The play may not have been drawn up for her. But, Daughtery took the inbounds pass in the corner, dribbled once, and threw up a prayer.

Daugherty’s shot hit nothing but the bottom of the net, sending Southern Utah to the semifinals on Friday.

“I wish I could say it was a shot,” Daugherty said. “I just threw it up and hoped. I wish I could say it was a shot but I don’t know.”

Daugherty finished with 14 points. Tomekia Whitman finished with a team-high 18 points. Daylani Ballena was also in double figures with 14 points.

The T-Birds advance to Friday’s semifinals to face either Grand Canyon or Seattle U.

Jody Adams first year as head coach at New Mexico State was impressive. Losing multiple starters to injuries and battling through it. A new culture was formed in Las Cruces in 2022-23. The Aggies finish their final season in the WAC with a 16-16 record. New Mexico is slated to join Conference USA on July 1, 2023.

“This season is not defined by that last shot,” Adams said. “Or this loss. It’s been defined by these hearts that have been changed on this team. A group of gals that chose to believe in me and my staff and each other. These young women are champions.”

About the author

Kyle McDonald

Love everything about WAC Hoops so decided I wanted to write more about it and cover this amazing conference that just keeps getting better. Follow us on Twitter @wachoopsdigest for information, game analysis and much more.

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