Danville girls waste no time in winning regional opener

Published 6:45 am Wednesday, March 1, 2023


Contributing Writer

SOMERSET — This is how you’re supposed to beat an underdog.

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The Danville girls did their best to take away any hope their opponent had of an upset as quickly as possible Monday night, and that proved to be the best-case scenario as they rolled into the semifinals of the 12th Region Tournament.

The Lady Admirals began by using their pressure defense to smother McCreary Central, then turned that defense into offense with a 25-0 run in the second quarter that sent them on their way to a 58-21 romp in the opening game of the regional at Pulaski County.

“I told them no matter what happened, we’ve got to make our run, and when we made that first run it was kind of out of the way,” Danville coach Judie Mason said.

Danville got 18 points on layups and 12 points off turnovers during the decisive run that left the Lady Admirals with a 37-6 lead before McCreary ended a six-minute scoring drought in the final minute of the first half.

Guard Sami Bottom said defense drove that run, as it so often does for Danville.

“We just really focused on our defense. We said we were going to play hard defense and go out strong,” Bottom said.

The victory extended Danville’s winning streak to 10 games and its school-record win total to 29, and it sent the Lady Admirals into the regional semifinals for the fifth consecutive year.

They’ll face one of the two teams that has beaten them this season, Pulaski County, at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Danville (29-2) was in control of this game from the outset, though it didn’t begin to separate itself from McCreary (17-16) until late in the first quarter.

The Lady Raiders, who were making their first regional appearance in 10 years, didn’t score for the first four minutes but were tied at 4-all before they were shut out for another 4½ minutes.

“We couldn’t let them stick around and stick around, and I thought at the beginning they were trying to slow us down and stick around,” Mason said. “At the beginning I thought we were in slow motion and I thought, ‘Oh, Lord, we’re going to have a hard night,’ but then we just kicked it in, and that’s what we do.”

It was 12-6 in the second minute of the second quarter when Alayah Quisenberry drove for a layup that started the run that ended the game.

The Lady Admirals scored 25 unanswered points before McCreary finally got a shot to go down in the final minute of the first half.

Bottom said it felt good to be in the middle of the madness, when the turnovers came quickly — many of them before McCreary could get the ball across the center line — and the layups came almost as fast.

“It shows how well we’re working as a team, how we’re just getting the ball, moving the ball, getting everybody open and starting with the defense to get points on the board,” she said.

McCreary had more turnovers (10) than field-goal attempts (8) in the second quarter, and it went just 4 for 18 from the field with 15 turnovers in the first half and finished at 26 percent with 23 turnovers.

Danville was 15 for 31 from the field at halftime despite going 1 for 10 from 3-point range, and it shot 42 percent on the night with 20 more attempts than its opponent.

Love Mays led Danville with 21 points, all of them in the first half and 16 of them during the 25-0 run, and Desiree Tandy added 11. They also had six rebounds each and Myla Turner had five boards to help Danville outrebound McCreary 36-22.

Bottom didn’t get any points during the first half, but she hit three 3-pointers early in the third quarter, the last of which gave the Lady Admirals a 47-12 lead and triggered the running-clock mercy rule with 4:55 left in the period.

“It felt good to finally knock some shots down,” she said. “I’ve been in a little bit of a cold streak, but once I hit the first one I knew I could get (going) … and my teammates found me open to the point where I could get those open shots.”

Mason said her message to the players at halftime was to start the second half with the same intensity they had in the first.

“Show at the beginning of the third quarter like you did at the beginning of the ballgame and let’s get out of here and move on,” she said.

The starters sat out much of the second half as the Lady Admirals turned their attention to the semifinal matchup with host Pulaski, which defeated West Jessamine 55-50 in Monday’s second game.

Pulaski (26-6) defeated Danville 52-40 in the Lady Admirals’ season opener, but Mason said the Lady Admirals aren’t the same team as they were in December as other players have emerged to help Mays, Bottom and Tandy, the only known commodities when the season began.

“At the beginning of the year I thought we were a Love-Sami-Des team, and now I think we’re a team of kids that can play,” Mason said.

Danville won 19 straight games after losing to Pulaski before its second loss. The Lady Maroons got off to a 13-2 start and are No. 2 in the region in wins behind Danville.

Pulaski’s top scorer, Sydney Martin (22.8 points per game), sat out Monday’s game with an ankle injury but is expected to play Friday.

“In my opinion they’re the top team in the region, so we’ve got to come at them, we’ve got to play, and it’s on their floor,” Mason said. “We’ve got to come ready to play and play our best game if we want to advance.”

Danville has been eliminated in the regional semifinals in each of the past four seasons, losing to Mercer County in each of the past two years and to Casey County in 2019 and ’20.