DANVILLE — Sophomore Olivia Rice scored 18 points to lead the Danville Blue Devils over the visiting arch-rival East Knox Bulldogs, 66-42, in Mid-Buckeye Conference girls basketball action on Saturday afternoon.
“I tried my hardest to hit the 3-pointers,” said Rice, who hit some key two-point buckets early and some 3s later on in the game. “Some of them fell and some of them rattled around and bounced back out.”
Things started slowly for both teams until Ashlee Townsend (3-of-6 field goals, 5-of-7 free throws, 12 points, four rebounds) hit a 3-pointer and then, followed with another field goal to put Danville (7-3, 5-2 MBC) up, 13-4, near the midpoint of the second period.
“We start out so slow sometimes,” said Danville coach Christian Toombs. “I don’t know if it’s a lack of confidence or what. We can be a pretty good team when we hit some shots.”
Katelyn Walls (4-of-6 fgs, 7-of-11 fts, 16 points) added a 3-pointer for Danville and then Townsend dished it to Aubrey Hazen (3-of-4 fgs, six points) who hit a bucket. That increased the Devils’ lead to 20-9 with 3:05 to go in the half.
“We were making some easy baskets and that was because of some turnovers that (East Knox) had,” said Toombs. “It all starts with our defense. If our defense is good we’re going to get layups.”
The Devils, who had only nine second-half turnovers to East Knox’s 14, broke away quickly as soon as they came out of the locker room. Rice hit a bucket and converted on a free throw. She followed with a 3-pointer, quickly giving the Devils a 33-16 advantage.
“I know (Danville assistant coach, Shane Henry) likes to throw that 3-pointer up,” said Toombs. “He knows that drives me crazy, because he knows I like to pound it inside. He likes to throw it up, so we laugh about that. Today, we were getting some offensive rebounds and putting it back. I thought we shot the ball well from the outside, too.”
For East Knox (3-8, 1-5 MBC) coach Daryl Uhde, turnovers played a big role, but they were not the whole story.
“Obviously 28 turnovers — that’s the most we ever had,” said Uhde. “It was just a little out of control. Some of it has to do with that (Danville’s) defense is really good, especially that their defense makes us play faster and out of control. Effort-wise we played hard but we gave up too many easy baskets.”
It was the Devils work under the offensive boards that gave them the confidence to keep on tossing up those three-point attempts. Persistence eventually paid off. They only hit three of their first 10, but ended up 5-of-12 from outside the arc.
“We have good people underneath who can get the ball if it bounces out; they’re right there for me,” said Rice.
Sierra Mazzaro (five points) answered back for the Bulldogs with a 3-pointer of her own, but Walls drew a foul on the Bulldogs’ next possession. Walls missed the back half of her two from the stripe, but grabbed the offensive rebound and hit the putback to give Danville a 17-point lead, 36-19.
“We just came out and we really wanted to beat (East Knox) and we just pushed it as hard as we could go,” said Walls. “It’s a big rivalry. Usually, it’s a close game when we play them but today we wanted to step it up and we beat them.”
Hannah Matheny’s (3-of-4 fgs, eight points) basket gave the Devils a 45-21 lead with 2:10 left in the third. East Knox’s Josie Burwell (six points) and Hayley Gray (five points) each shot 3-pointers to try to get the Bulldogs back in the game, but the Devils went into the fourth quarter with a commanding 51-31 advantage.
“We did a great job handling (East Knox’) pressure, handling the ball, being strong with it, coming down with rebounds and not turning it over,” said Toombs. “That’s something we work on in practice and we preach to the kids all the time about being strong with the ball and we are starting to do that.”
The Devils led by as much as 26 points when Townsend got a putback on a missed shot by teammate Ashley Didinger. A pair of buckets by the Bulldogs’ top scorer freshman, Bridget Dennis (eight points), was not nearly enough as her team shot 38.1 percent from the floor for the game.
The Bulldogs jayvee was impressive as they defeated Danville, 45-13. Dennis led the jayvee Bulldogs as well, dropping in 17 points. Bridget Davis had five points to lead the Blue Devils.