DANVILLE – From the second Danville hit the floor on Wednesday night, it was loud.
The way the bench whooped and hollered after every steal and score; the way the five on the floor talked through their full-court ambush, eerily in-sync with every step; the way the bleachers rumbled like summer country thunder when the visitors – the feisty but thin Granville Christian Lions – called timeout to halt another merciless run.
It was all very loud.
It was exactly as coach Matt Proper had planned.
“It’s something we’ve kind of done all season,” he said of his team’s relentless full-court defensive pressure. “I think every game we’ve ran four quarters of pressure. So conditioning-wise, we’re kind of used to that. It’s just kind of our mentality.”
The Blue Devils (11-10), seeded sixth in their district, pressured No. 13 Granville Christian (8-12) into 27 turnovers on Wednesday night. They won, 62-23, and nine Blue Devils scored. Not a bad way to kick off this year’s tournament, as far as Proper is concerned.
“In tournament time, you know, it’s just a different feel. Even showing up here an hour before the game, there’s just a different energy to it. I think the fans have it, it’s almost a nervous energy. You know, there’s a lot on the line,” Proper said.
“And so I thought the girls, once we got into it a little bit, they rose to the occasion and played really hard.”
After a jittery first few possessions, Danville exhibited one of its finest offensive halves of the year against the Lions.
The Blue Devils went on two damaging runs in the first quarter – one of five unanswered points and the next of 10 – and Granville Christian was forced to call timeouts after each.
Freshman Brooklyn Hess wreaked havoc at the top of the Devils’ full-court press, recording steals and deflections that led to easy run-outs. Junior Hannah Duncan hit the offensive glass to clean up the misses and lay them in.
And center CeCe Newbold, the team’s leading scorer, did her thing. She anchored the back end of Danville’s defense and scored two quick layups to get things going.
Granville Christian turned it over early and often. When they did manage to make it past half court, the Lions were rushed into off-balance shots. They played at Danville’s pace, and they paid for it.
“Our goal is, hopefully our defense creates most of our offense,” Proper said. “It was good to see that got us going a little bit. And any team we can do that to a little bit, it takes them out of their rhythm. It makes them exert energy, and for a team without a lot of depth, I thought that helped us build that momentum and wore them down a little bit, especially in the first half.”
Danville jumped out to a 12-4 lead when Hess hit her first shot of the night, a three coming off a down-screen on the wing. Then freshman Alenah Boeshart hustled in for a transition put-back as time expired, giving the Blue Devils a 20-10 lead after one quarter.
Six Danville players scored in the game’s first eight minutes.
Granville Christian hung around as long as it could – junior wing Avery Adkins hit two runners early to keep the margin respectable – but with just eight players on the roster, fatigue began to set in quickly.
Danville outscored the Lions 24-7 in the second quarter, as junior post Ally Bower got going with an early transition bank-in. She ended up scoring 7 points in the quarter and all stemmed from forced turnovers.
Newbold scored five straight points – first on a spot-up three, then on a drive to the cup – to give Danville a 31-12 lead with 4:16 left until halftime. Hess stole the ball, shot a layup, missed it, and converted her own put-back attempt with time running out. The Blue Devils led 44-16 at intermission.
The clock ran most of the second half, per OHSAA rules; once a team gets up 35 points in the second half of a tournament game, the clock will run as long as that lead does not dip below 30.
After the 4:02 mark in the third quarter, it never came close.
Danville played its reserves the entire fourth quarter, as the tandem of Boeshart and sophomore Amelia Baldridge combined for all 7 Blue Devil points.
In a game where five Blue Devils scored 5 points or more, Hess led the way with 15. Newbold followed with 13, while Duncan had 10 and Bower added 8 for the home team. Alyssa Goehring recorded a team-high 10 points for Granville Christian; Adkins followed with 9 and Darryne Zellar added 4.
Danville will play five-seed Shekinah Christian (Plain City) on Saturday in the tournament’s second round. The game will be held at nearby Jonathan Alder High School and will tip off at 1 p.m. Danville made it to the district semifinals (third round) last year before falling to Berne Union.
Although his group is young – the Blue Devils have just one senior, Macy Moore – Proper believes they have approached the postseason with a veteran mentality thus far.
“Every time we take the floor it’s a little bit better, a little bit better. It’s kind of like track, you want to peak at the right time. I feel like this team, the last three weeks we’ve really started to turn the corner there,” Proper said.
“You know, everyone’s kind of healthy, we know our roles. I think we understand what we’re trying to accomplish. Everyone’s on the same page in terms of philosophies and their niché within the team, offensively and defensively. So I think we’re in a good place. Hopefully we can stay healthy and keep it going and have some fun with it.”
KMAC TEAMS IN THE TOURNAMENT
- Highland defeated Centennial on Tuesday, 45-25. The Scots will play at Granville on Friday in the second round.
- East Knox lost to West Jefferson on Tuesday, 39-38. The Bulldogs finished their season 13-10.
- Northmor beat Mount Gilead on Wednesday, 48-44. The Golden Knights will play at Utica on Saturday in the second round.
- Centerburg will play at Liberty Union on Saturday after a first-round bye.
- Fredericktown will play at Africentric on Saturday after a first-round bye.
- Cardington will host Bishop Ready on Saturday after a first-round bye.