HOWARD — When Danville and East Knox hook up in any sporting event, it usually comes down to who makes the big plays at the end of the game.
Friday’s boys basketball game was no different.
The Bulldogs got a big defensive play when it needed one, holding off the Blue Devils 62-59 in Mid-Buckeye Conference action Friday at East Knox.
East Knox held a four-point lead and had the ball with less than a minute to go. But, Danville got a steal and Shaun Durbin was fouled hard as he went to the basket. The officials called an intentional foul on the Bulldogs, giving Danville two free throws and the ball back with just 15 seconds left. Durbin made one of the two free tosses and the Devils went to work, trying to get a three-point attempt before the clock expired.
But, a solid man-to-man defense helped the Bulldogs tip the ball away and all Danville could do was heave it up from three-quarters court. It didn’t come close and the Bulldogs (5-6 overall, 2-5 MBC) were able to celebrate.
“This was very exciting,” said East Knox coach Don McDaniel. “We said compete with everything, don’t foul the three-point shooter if they get one. We’re OK to go to overtime if we have to. The kids played real hard, tough defense there. They just wouldn’t be denied.”
It didn’t look like it would be a dogfight early in the game, as East Knox scored the first seven points of the game. Khai Haralson got a three-pointer and another bucket in the early run.
But, Danville (3-6, 0-5) wouldn’t go away that quickly, pounding it inside to Weston Severns and Robby Moreland to stay in the game.
That pounding inside continued in the second quarter, especially when East Knox post Luke Branstool went to the bench with foul trouble. The Devils went on a 9-0 run midway through the period and led 30-29 at halftime. Severns and Moreland combined for 22 of those points.
“I think we got the shots we wanted and the looks we wanted (in the second quarter),” said Danville coach Doug Selvey. “We were able to feed the ball down into the post. We’ve got some pretty strong players there for us.”
East Knox opened things up again in the third quarter, thanks to a change in defenses. The Bulldogs went to a 1-3-1 zone in an attempt to slow down the penetration of the Danville guards and keep the ball out of the hands of Severns and Moreland. It seemed to work for a while as the Bulldogs went on a 11-3 run to open up a 40-35 lead.
“The kids really believe in it (the 1-3-1 zone), but the biggest difference was mentally,” said McDaniel. “We had a veteran group start the second half with the 1-3-1. I think it disrupted their offense. They weren’t able to penetrate the middle like they wanted to.”
Branstool and Haralson were a force for the Bulldogs in that stretch.
“When Luke got back on to the floor, he was on fire. He had a couple of nice passes to Khai, as well,” McDaniel said.
The Bulldogs increased the lead to 12 early in the fourth quarter (55-43), but, Danville didn’t go down without a fight. Nick Stover helped lead the charge as the Devils were able to close within two with just one minute to play. Stover hit four straight free throws and had a key steal in the Devil run.
“Nick is one kid who plays really hard. He has that competitive fire and he really stepped up for us. That was good to see from him,” Selvey said. “The kids all have that never-say-die attitude. We had some bunnies we missed. If we make them, maybe it’s a different story.”
Branstool ended with 17 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs. Haralson added 16 points, 11 rebounds and three assists, while Toney Johnson had nine points. Colton Tucker hit just one 3-point shot, but McDaniel was pleased with his hard play and his team-first philosophy despite twisting his ankle.
“Colton Tucker got us off to a great start, but then he got injured,” McDaniel said. “I thought in the second half he was still effective even though you could see it was bothering him. He said he was off his rhythm and to put someone else in for him. He’s a team-player. He’s one of those kids who care more about winning than points.”
Danville got 16 points each from Moreland and Severns. Severns also pulled down nine rebounds, while Moreland had eight. Stover added 14 points and four assists for the Devils, who hit on 23 of 32 shots from the free-throw line in the game.
In the junior varsity game, East Knox posted a 42-32 victory.
Brandon Berger scored 11 points to lead the Bulldogs. Cody Totten added nine and Jamison Shriver had eight.
Danville was led by Landon Magers, who had 15 points. Marcus Durbin added five.