CENTERBURG — The Danville High School girls basketball team, coming off a Saturday loss to East Knox, was looking for something to get it back on track. The Blue Devils found it on Tuesday night in Centerburg.
Facing the host Trojans, Danville put together a strong fourth quarter to pull away for a 53-41 Mid-Buckeye Conference victory. A 13-6 run in the final four minutes, including 6-of-6 free throws by Tracy Payne, sealed the Blue Devils’ victory.
“This was big because we didn’t play that well against East Knox,” said Danville coach Scott Ewing. “I challenged the girls to come out with more intensity and play all four quarters. I thought we played pretty steady the whole game; we got riled there a few times, but we fought back. I thought we did a nice job pressuring the ball. It was a nice game.”
The game was closely contested for three quarters, though Danville (12-5, 7-4 MBC) jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the first quarter. Hannah Matheny scored the first bucket off a layup, and Kaleigh Conner drilled a 3-pointer in the first 30 seconds alone. Centerburg slowly closed the gap with four points from Claire Harvey and a layin from Breanna Campbell. The Blue Devils got a couple of free throws and another 3 from Conner to go up 15-10 after one.
The Trojans (7-9, 6-6 MBC) were determine to make a game of it, though, and stayed close throughout the second quarter. Danville led by no more than four after a jumper by Centerburg’s Mackenzie Stoyle and a Megan Hartley free throw. Danville won the mid-portion of the quarter, but the Trojans closed with buckets from Camaranne Myles and Hartley to go into the locker room down, 23-21.
Centerburg came out of the halftime break fired up, and it showed on the defensive end. The Trojans began to pressure the Blue Devils, and forced six turnovers in the quarter. Offense, however, was still hard to come by.
“We had to find that same intensity we had at the start of the first half,” Ewing said. “We couldn’t worry about some of the calls because they were going both ways. We just told them to play the game on the floor and leave the mental stuff out of it.”
Danville struck first with an Emily Mickley jumper, but a 3-pointer from Harvey and a Myles free throw tied the game at 25 with 4:40 to go in the quarter. Matheny hit a jumper to put her team back in front, but Myles came down, took a pass from Hartley and drilled another 3 to give Centerburg its first lead of the game. That lead was short lived, however. Payne answered with a pull-up 3-pointer of her own and laid in another bucket to make it a four-point lead, 32-28, entering the fourth quarter.
Danville continued its strong offensive play into the final period. The Blue Devils outscored Centerburg, 8-2, in the first 2 1/2 minutes, building a 10-point advantage. Myles single-handedly outscored Danville, 7-2, in the next 2 1/2 minutes, but the Trojans could never overcome the deficit.
“We just kind of went through the motions; I don’t really know what was wrong with us tonight,” said Centerburg coach Todd Nauman. “This was not the same team that has been playing the last six or seven ballgames. Danville came in and played like Danville always plays; they played hard and they defended well. … They outplayed us. They wanted the win and they took it home. End of story.”
Payne led Danville with 17 points, six rebounds, five steals and one block. Conner and Matheny had 11 and 10 points apiece, respectively. Matheny added five rebounds, four steals and two assists; Aubrey Hazen finished with eight points, 12 rebounds and two steals; and Mickley scored six points.
“I thought we did a nice job of running the offense in the second half,” Ewing said. “We did a good job of getting the lead and hanging onto it. We worked the ball around and worked the clock. … It was important for us to keep that lead. Even though it got down to four of five points, we didn’t panic. That kept us focused.”
Myles was Centerburg’s only double-digit scorer. She finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and had eight rebounds and two assists. Harvey scored seven points, and Hartley six; and Stoyle had four points and eight rebounds.
“The only bright spot was Camaranne played pretty decent for us throughout the game,” said Nauman. “She had a nice game, but she needs more. She’s got to have some help out there.
“I spent more time yelling ‘Shoot the ball’ than anything tonight because they weren’t thinking about it. We’ve got to have more. This is the varsity opportunity they all wanted. Now, they have to step up and play.”
In junior varsity play, Centerburg picked up a 32-22 victory over Danville. Kaitlyn Weldy and Kayla Peck led the Trojans with 10 points apiece, and Macy Michel added six points. For Danville, Olivia Rice scored a game-high 14 points.
Both Danville and Centerburg have just a few games left in the regular season. Danville next plays MBC leader Utica on Saturday. Centerburg, meanwhile, will host Worthington Christian on Thursday before hosting Northridge on Saturday.
“We’ve got three games left in the regular season, and we’ve got Utica Saturday,” said Ewing. “I shouldn’t have to say anything to them to get them fired up, but I said five letters ‘U-T-I-C-A.’ It is down at their place and we want to keep our momentum going for the tournament.”
“We’ve got one practice to get out head up and get back to work,” said Nauman. “We’ve got to decide first what caused tonight, and then we have to find an answer.”