By Pat Dailey For the Herald
The Clinton Herald
---- — POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – Damon Overton was all but isolated from his Ashford teammates while trying to work the basketball to them against Davenport’s tallish 1-3-1 zone defense Wednesday.
The Saints never solved the Panthers’ zone and went down quietly in a 63-46 first-round loss at the NAIA Division II National Championship.
Ashford (23-10), which closed by losing three of its last four games, maintained only a point-a-minute pace for the first 30 minutes and finished shooting 31 percent from the field with a dozen turnovers.
At the heart of the Saints’ woes was Overton being overwhelmed all over the perimeter by Davenport’s forwards and centers. The Panthers’ big men combined to serve as a towering presence at the top of their zone.
“It was tough trying to peak over those 6-foot-7, 6-8 guys,” Overton said. “It was hard to increase your passing angles and get through their zone. Give all credit to them. They played fantastic defense.”
As Overton alluded to, Ashford’s guards also found it difficult to penetrate against the Panthers’ zone.
“Every time I tried to drive, they would collapse,” said Overton, who had a team-high 15 points. “They were athletic. They weren’t big, slow men. They had good lateral movement.”
Ashford coach Oliver Drake fully expected to see a zone out of No. 9-seeded Davenport (28-6) and felt the Saints would be able to handle it.
“(The zone) was effective, and I’m not sure why,” Drake said. “I thought we were prepared for it. But obviously we weren’t prepared. I take all the blame. I didn’t have the guys ready to go. It’s disappointing to see the way we played. It’s going to haunt me for a while.”
“The coaches actually had them scouted to a T,” AU forward Anthony Woods said. “It’s all on the players. We didn’t come out with the right mentality. Once we got the at-large bid, we were all excited to come here and play. I had great feeling before the game. But we didn’t show up.”
Drake wanted to see his ball-handlers take the initiative and make strong moves to the basket. But good offensive possessions were few all day.
“You need to have the same attack regardless how tall they are,” Drake said. “But we sat back on our heels too much. We weren’t aggressive. We didn’t get in gaps. We ran a couple quick-hitters but didn’t execute. If you execute a couple of those, all of a sudden the zone gets packed in a little more.”
Ashford never found its groove, particularly from downtown. The Saints missed 11 of their first 12 3-point attempts and finished 4-of-25 beyond the arc.
Woods, who entered the tournament with 78 treys, was 3-of-9 shooting 3s.
“They played good D on me,” Woods said. “I’m sure they knew I was a shooter. Every time I thought I was going to have an open look it ended up being contested. I was shooting with confidence. But it just didn’t feel right.”
With Overton struggling to pass over the Panthers, Ashford repeatedly found itself in desperation mode, firing away from long distance to avoid a shot-clock violation.
“When you’re doing that, nine times out of 10 it’s not going to be a good shot,” Overton said.
Ashford did well to still be within eight points, 29-21, at halftime. Defense kept the Saints within striking distance, as the Panthers managed only 33 percent shooting (9-of-27) from the field in the first half.
Drake was thinking his bunch was only a mini-spurt away from gaining momentum and perhaps even control.
“That’s what my thought is even if we’re down by a lot,” Drake said. “I’ve got a fighter’s mentality. I don’t know anything else. But obviously I didn’t get that mentality (out of) our guys and that’s disappointing. We didn’t compete. That’s what we hang our hats on.
“We should have had a chip on our shoulders and play with a little edge to prove that we belong here. I didn’t see that from our guys.”
Davenport, which bounced back to shoot 70 percent in the second half, was led by forward Dominez Burnett’s 28 points and eight rebounds.
The only consolation for the Saints is they will return next season virtually intact, losing only one senior, DeAndre Lowery.
“We need to get a lot better,” Drake said. “Hopefully, ending with something like this, everybody will take a hard look in the mirror and say, ‘There are some things I can do to get better.’ It starts with me and hopefully will trickle down throughout our program.”
Overton said: “As soon as we get back home, we’re going to get right back at it. We’ve got to do what we got to do. I’m sure we’ll be back here next year.”
DAVENPORT 63, ASHFORD 46
ASHFORD (23-10) — Anthony Woods 4-12 0-2 11, Thaddeus Perry 0-1 2-2 2, DeAndre Lowery 4-13 0-0 9, Josh Little 0-1 2-2 2, Damon Overton 4-12 7-8 15, Jordan Flowers 0-0 0-0 0, Tevin Harris 1-5 0-1 2, Tim Huber 2-4 1-1 5, Nick Wood 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-48 12-16 46.
DAVENPORT (28-6) — Dominez Burnett 10-13 6-7 28, Kevin Rich 0-4 0-0 0, DeArmond Davis 3-9 0-0 6, Braima Hai 0-0 0-0 0, JaVontae Ford 5-10 8-819, Dawid Czerniawski 0-1 0-0 0, Mike Betcher 2-4 0-0 4, Brendan Cooper 1-2 0-0 2, Jon Prins 0-0 0-0 0, John McCloud 1-1 0-0 2, Nick Gamble 1-3 0-0 2, Cameron Burns 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-47 14-15 63.
Halftime — Davenport 29, Ashford 21. 3-point goals — Ashford 4-25 (Woods 3-9, Lowery 1-8, Harris 0-3, Overton 0-5); Davenport 3-10 (Burnett 2-2, Ford 1-4, Gamble 0-1, Rich 0-3). Total fouls — Ashford 13, Davenport 19. Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Ashford 24 (Woods 4, Perry 4); Davenport 35 (Burnett 8, Ford 7). Assists — Ashford 1 (Lowery); Davenport 5 (Davis). Blocked shots — Davenport 3 (Davis 2). Steals — Ashford 6 (Overton 2, Huber 2); Davenport 5 (Burnett 2). Turnovers — Ashford 12, Davenport 5.