DANVILLE — The Utica High School girls basketball team continued its Mid-Buckeye Conference domination Monday night at Danville. In a makeup game from Saturday, the Redskins hammered the Blue Devils, 58-32, to remain tied at the top of the conference standings.
“We knew it was a huge game for us,” said Utica head coach Michelle Snow. “Being on the road, especailly with the last two games being canceled, the kids haven’t played in a week; it’s tough to get on a bus to come play somewhere. It’s especially tough to play in Danville — they are always tough at home. Our kids did a great job of coming into a hostile environment and playing hard.”
Utica used its post play and height to its advantage early. The first quarter was tight, ending at 9-6. Utica gained as much as a nine-point lead in the second quarter, but a last-second shot by Schae Frazee at the buzzer of the first half sent the teams into the locker room with the Redskins leading, 18-11.
The first half was dominated by Utica’s senior post Tricia Harvey. Harvey made her presence felt on the offensive and the defensive end, coming up with several big rebounds and scoring 10 of Utica’s 18 first-half points.
“Our main goal was to rebound; that was the focus of our game, and we were able to do so,” Harvey said. “I think we were stronger than them; we work out hard in the weight room and the gym, and it pays off.”
“I told the kids the key to this game is going to be our rebounding,” Snow said. “We had a lot of offensive rebounds. I definitely think the post play inside and getting the ball inside made a big difference in this game.”
The second half saw the Redskins pull away. Danville scored the first basket of the half, but Utica went on a 14-1 run that put the Redskins well in control of the game. By the end of the third quarter, Utica held a 32-20 lead. Danville kept the score to as close as a 12-point Redskin lead in the fourth quater, but was unable to get any closer than that as Utica’s Kandis Walker picked up where Harvey left off. Walker had 14 of her 16 points in the second half.
“All of our seniors stepped up tonight,” Snow said. “Both [Walker and Harvey] kept their composure, were very vocal and provided great leadership on the floor. They both really produced for us tonight.”
Key to Utica’s victory was keeping Danville senior Tracy Payne from taking over the game.
“We wanted to make sure we contained Tracy Payne,” said Snow. “You can’t stop a kid like that; she is just a phenomenal basketball player. Our goal was to contain her and make sure she didn’t beat us. We played some tough defense on her. Any time she got in the paint we double-teamed her and made sure that we only gave them one chance.”
“We knew it was Danville and that is always a physical game,” Walker said. “We knew that Tracy Payne is usually the leading scorer for them. We knew that if we could shut her down we could handle the rest of the team. By the second half we had the game in the bag. It’s a big win for us, it’s Danville and that’s a big competitor.”
Although it was a big win for Utica, it was a tough loss for the Blue Devils.
“We emphasized all week long this game was going to be very physical and we needed to be physical back,” said Danville head coach Scott Ewing. “I think at times we weren’t as physical as we could be. We got outrebounded and that was it. They were very physical and quick, and we didn’t shoot the ball real well.
“We can’t let this loss linger. It hurts, but it by no means takes us out of our season. We have to right the ship pretty quick. We’ll bounce back; I am very confident we will bounce back.”
Utica was led by Walker, who scored 16 points. Harvey chipped in 15 points and Abbie Corbett added 14 points. Payne led the Blue Devils with 15 points, while Hannah Matheny finished the game with 10 points.
In junior varsity play, Utica defeated Danville ,61-43. Myranda Wolfe scored 19 points for the Redskins and Danielle Doup had 10 points. Danville was led by Katlyn Walls with 15 points; Ashley Diginger added 11 points.