DANVILLE — A good defense will help a basketball team cover up a lot of issues.
Danville struggled with poor shooting, first-game jitters and some bad passing at times during the Danville Tip-Off Classic, sponsored by The Hangout, on Friday, but a solid defensive effort helped the Lady Devils to a 50-20 victory over Mansfield Christian.
“It’s always nice to get a win and get some of the jitters out,” said Danville coach Christian Toombs. “We’ve still got a lot of things to work on, but it’s still the first night. The girls were disappointed, and that’s the sign of a good team. To hold someone to just 20 points and still be disappointed, that’s a good sign.”
The Danville defense was stifling in the first half, holding Mansfield Christian to just seven shots and forcing 19 turnovers. The Flames didn’t get their first points of the game until there were just 50 seconds left in the first quarter. By that time, Danville had opened up a 12-0 lead and was in total control.
“That’s one of our strengths — our half-court man-to-man defense. We’ve just got to keep out of foul trouble. Right now, our play is predicated off our half-court defense and I can’t complain,” Toombs said.
Senior Aubrey Hazen and junior Ashlee Townsend were the offensive stars of the first quarter, trading turns scoring two points as they opened up the 12-0 lead.
They got some help from sophomore Katelyn Walls and senior Hannah Matheny in the second quarter as the Devils pushed the lead to 25-3 late in the quarter. The Flames only points of the half came on two near-prayer 3-pointers from Raegan Ehlert.
Danville’s offense disappeared to begin the third quarter, though. It took nearly five minutes for the Devils to score, but the lead remained at 16 points, thanks to the defense.
“We came out in the second half and broke down mentally. We were lackadaisical, which we need to work on,” Toombs said. “When you hold someone to just two baskets in a half, that’s pretty good. But we spent a lot of energy in the first half playing defense. Now, we need to find out if we can do it for two halves.”
Walls took over offensively for Danville late in the third quarter, scoring 11 of her 14 points in the final two-plus minutes. That helped the Devils push the lead back up to 30 points (41-11) and end any threat the Flames could muster.
Hazen finished the night with 15 points and six rebounds to lead the Devils. Matheny added nine points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Townsend had seven points. Senior point-guard Kaleigh Conner dished out 10 assists.
Mansfield Christian was led by Ehlert, who had 15 points.
Danville will host Horizon Science, which lost 53-51 to Columbus West in the first game of the classic Friday, tonight at 7:30 p.m.
“We have to come in tomorrow and be ready to play,” Toombs said. “I think we were disappointed in the second half that we did not finish the game strong. These girls know how to win, they’re willing to work and the will do whatever the coaches say. We’ll get back to work tomorrow and be ready.”