Defense drives DCA boys’ win in 1 vs. 2 showdown

Published 3:11 pm Thursday, February 22, 2024

If the Danville Christian boys are going to get to the top of the 12th Region, it’s defense that will take them there.

The Warriors made that perfectly clear Tuesday night when they put the clamps on Wayne County in a late-season battle of teams ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the region.

DCA did to Wayne what it has done to most of the teams it has faced this season, forcing the Cardinals into an uncharacteristically poor offensive performance in a 56-37 victory.

Email newsletter signup

It was an ideal illustration of what the Warriors can do to aggravate opponents and of what might well be their greatest asset in their pursuit of a regional title.

“It’s going to be defense, all on defense,” DCA forward Emmanuel Dut said. “We’re going to block shots, get on the glass and not let them shoot.”

DCA (22-5) held Wayne (22-6) to its lowest score of the season, a particular point of pride for the Warriors.

It was the third straight game they have done that, following wins over North Oldham and McCreary Central, and the seventh so far this season – and they have a handful of wins in which they’ve missed that mark by only two or three points.

“Our goal is to make a team score the lowest points throughout the year,” Dut said with a grin.

DCA coach Don Story said that approach is part of the Warriors’ overall buy-in on defense.

“I tell them, ‘Get mad if the other team even scores,’” Story said. “So they’re excited about holding teams to possibly their lowest point total of the season. … We want them to be challenged and we want them to just continue to grow and grow and grow.”

Entering its regular-season finale Friday at Somerset, DCA had held 16 consecutive opponents and 24 of 27 to 50 points or less.

Wayne had been averaging 68.3 points per game and hadn’t scored less than 47 points before the Warriors held them to 30 percent shooting from the field. The Cardinals went 1 for 11 in the third quarter, when they were outscored 17-4, and 7 for 26 in the second half as an 11-game winning streak that was their longest in 10 years came to an end.

DCA’s defenders forced Wayne into shots it didn’t want, both inside and outside.

“As long as we put our hands up and make them take a tough shot, that’s the main goal,” Dut said.

Wayne’s Kendall Phillips, who was averaging 18.1 points and shooting 42 percent from 3-point range, was held to six points and was 0 for 5 from 3-point range.

With 7-0 Lual Ayiei and 6-10 Geu Ateny protecting the inside for DCA and Dut and occasionally Ayiei guarding Antajuan Dumphord, Wayne’s other chief offensive threat, the Warriors’ Titus Boyd was able to stick with Phillips on the perimeter.

“I thought Titus did an incredible job defending tonight. When you can put pressure on the perimeter, it sure makes a difference,” Story said. “Phillips is a knockdown shooter, but we have one guy just stay with him because we’ve got help inside, and it just makes a big difference.”

Boyd scored 21 points, Dut had 14 and Ateny added 11 for DCA in its eighth straight win. Ateny had a game-high 12 rebounds, and Ayiei grabbed 10.

The Warriors scored the first eight points of the second half, getting 3-pointers from Boyd and Ayiei and two free throws from Ateny to take a 34-20 lead. Dut got consecutive layups off Wayne turnovers at the end of the third period to stretch the Warriors’ lead to 43-24, and they led by as many as 23 points in the fourth quarter.

Winning the battle of No. 1 (DCA) vs. No. 2 (Wayne) in the current regional rankings was the latest significant win within the 12th Region for the Warriors, who are 15-0 against regional opponents.

However, Story said he has no interest in sending messages to the competition they’ll face in the upcoming district and regional tournaments.

“That can come back to bite you,” he said. “We don’t want that. We just want to continue to improve and get better and win our next game.”