Danville girls apply pressure to advance in All “A” Classic

Published 1:41 pm Thursday, January 26, 2023


Contributing Writer

RICHMOND — The Danville girls did what they do best, and their opponent couldn’t do a thing about it.

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The pressure defense that has served the Lady Admirals so well for so long propelled them into the second round of the All “A” Classic, as they flustered another foe in an easy first-round win Wednesday.

They forced 26 turnovers in a 70-35 romp over Portland Christian, flustering another foe exactly as coach Judie Mason wants them to do every time they take the floor.

“That’s what we do. That’s how we practice every day,” Mason said. “I felt like our pressure was the key to it, to get them in a speed-up game. We had to make them run with us because … I don’t think they’ve seen our speed before.”

Danville (19-1) scored 33 points off turnovers to advance to the quarterfinals. The Lady Admirals will play Pikeville, another of the top teams in the field, at 10 a.m. Friday.

It was the second-largest win of the season for Danville, which has won 19 straight games since a season-opening loss, and it was fueled by the full-court defense that is its trademark.

“Putting pressure on the other team helped us get into our offense and helped us score more,” Danville guard Samantha Bottom said. “Working together as a team really helped us put pressure on them. We rotated well with each other to help get that pressure to help us get up and get a lead.”

Bottom is one of only two players who saw action the last time Danville played at Baptist Health Arena. The Lady Admirals didn’t make it to Richmond in 2021, when only the semifinalists came to the neutral site at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they didn’t qualify for the All “A” last season.

“Most of us haven’t been here that are on the team … so it was really good to experience this with all my teammates and it was really good to get the win,” Bottom said.

The All “A” matters a great deal to Mason, and she wants this crop of players to develop the same appreciation for it that many of her past teams have had.

“I just love it, and I try to make (the players) feel that,” she said. “We haven’t been here in two years, and I want them to feel this. After you win that first-round (game) it’s totally different. And our crowd was huge. I just loved the support from everybody.”

It became clear by the second quarter that Danville would get a first-round win for the fourth time in 14 appearances in the statewide small-school tournament.

The Lady Admirals forced 12 turnovers in the first 10:13 as they opened a 22-4 lead that was never threatened. And their lead might have been even bigger had they not gone 4 for 22 from the field in the first quarter.

“We missed a lot of easy shots, but I am happy with our defensive effort all around,” Mason said.

Portland Christian (15-2) frequently struggled just to inbound the ball against Danville’s defense. The Lady Admirals had 15 steals, including four each by Alayah Quisenberry and Desiree Tandy.

“We practice like this every day so we’re used to it,” Bottom said. “(Mason) always says other teams don’t play like us, so we just have to keep going hard, and if it doesn’t click at first keep working on it until we get it right.”

Danville’s lead grew to 36-10 late in the first half and 48-17 early in the second. It reached the 35-point threshold to trigger the running-clock mercy rule late in the third quarter, after which Mason called off the press and parked her starters on the bench.

“The best part is we got to rest our starters,” she said.

Quisenberry scored a game-high 18 points in her best game in her short time with Danville, playing much of the game at point guard while starter Love Mays languished in foul trouble.

Playing only her fifth game since becoming eligible following a transfer from Garrard County, Quisenberry went 4 for 4 from 3-point range and 7 for 11 overall from the field with four steals and two assists in 21 minutes.

“Alayah stepped up today and made some big plays for us,” Mason said. “Before Alayah came wwe didn’t have a backup point guard, so that was big for us.”

Desiree Tandy scored 15 points and Bottom added 11 for Danville, which shot 37 percent and went 8 for 22 from 3-point range.

The Lady Admirals held Portland Christian to 27 percent shooting.

Danville will now prepare for a Pikeville team that shares its passion for pressure defense. The Lady Panthers forced 30 turnovers Wednesday as they trounced Carlisle County 76-34.

Pikeville is led by one of the state’s top juniors, Trinity Rowe, who scored 25 points against Carlisle. As a team, Pikeville is shooting 47 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3-point range.

The Lady Panthers reached the semifinals last year, went on to win the 15th Region and lost only two seniors to graduation.

“They’re coming down here with the same goal as we are: to win this thing,” Mason said. “We’ve got to match them mentally.”

The Danville boys’ All “A” first-round game was Thursday against Covington Holy Cross.

PORTLAND CHRISTIAN (15-2) — Ellie Heid 6-18 1-3 13, Kaela Ballard 2-4 3-4 7, Piper Scott 2-15 0-0 4, Reagan Mulvey 1-7 0-0 2, Addie Bragg 1-5 0-0 2, Eva Hidrogo 1-1 0-0 2, Raya Heid 0-0 1-4 1, Elisa Hidrogo 0-0 0-0 0, Ava Gish 1-1 1-2 4, Katie Browning 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-52 6-13 35.

DANVILLE (19-1) — Love Mays 1-6 3-4 5, Samantha Bottom 3-10 2-2 11, Jazelynn Doneghy 1-5 5-6 8, Desiree Tandy 5-17 5-5 15, Bryn Gooch 0-0 0-0 0, Nahla Yeast 0-1 0-0 0, Alayah Quisenberry 7-11 0-1 18, Abree Ganns 0-1 0-0 0, Myla Turner 1-4 3-4 5, Anye Thompson 0-1 0-0 0, Nemeah Jackson 4-4 0-4 8, Tayvionna Caldwell 0-0 0-0 0, Avery Dunn 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-60 18-26 70.

Portland Christian 4 17 26 35

Danville 14 40 58 70

3-Point Goals — Portland Christian 1-6 (E. Heid 0-2, Ballard 0-1, Scott 0-1, Gish 1-1, Browning 0-1), Danville 8-22 (Mays 0-3, Bottom 3-8, Doneghy 1-4, Tandy 0-1, Quisenberry 4-4, Turner 0-2). Rebounds — Portland Christian 34 (Mulvey 8), Danville 51 (Turner 9). Assists — Portland Christian 6 (E. Heid, Ballard 3), Danville 17 (Mays 4). Turnovers — Portland Christian 26, Danville 21. Fouled Out — None.