MOUNT VERNON — The Utica Redskins got off to a great start and didn’t look back against the visiting Danville Blue Devils on Monday night. Utica scored the first 12 points of the game, and led 24-4 early in the second quarter en route to a 61-43 Mid-Buckeye Conference victory.
“Our goal was to come out and set the tone early, and I thought our guys did that,” said Utica coach Eric Sheck. “I don’t think our guys executed very well down the stretch, but Danville is not going to quit. Their kids came out and trapped us, and we didn’t handle the ball very well. ... We’re happy to get the win. We set the tone early, and that’s something our guys have really been working on the last few weeks.”
A three-point play by Kevin Walton got the game started for Utica (5-8, 4-4 MBC), and Justin Dassylva kept it going with three buckets and two assists to Walton and his twin brother, Kyle. Kyle hit a 3 with 5:26 to go, and picked up an assist after an alley-oop pass to Dassylva, who finished the basket off to make it a 12-0 game halfway through the first quarter.
“We always tell the kids we need to get off to a quick start,” said Danville coach Doug Selvey, “but when you go against a 2-3 zone that is as active as theirs is, that makes it tough.
“When (Dassylva) gets going down the court, he is going full speed and that is tough to stop,” added Selvey. “He is so tall that he can shoot over a lot of guards, and he is so strong that he can create space.”
Weston Severns broke up the quarter by getting Danville (3-8, 0-7 MBC) on the board with a pair of buckets over the next minute. Joe Metzger and Braydon Bousquet each scored in the final minute to put the Redskins up, 16-4, after one.
The lead continued to grow over the first two minutes of the second quarter. Kyle Walton hit a 3, as did Kevin, and a steal and layup by Kevin with 6:01 on the clock made it a 24-4 lead for Utica. Danville crept back into the game from the free-throw line. Severns, Marcus Magers and Robby Moreland hit a pair each to cut the lead to 14, but a free throw by Dassylva, who was dominating the boards, and a 3 by Kyle Walton held off the Blue Devil charge. Utica outscored Danville, 9-6, over the final 3 1/2 minutes to take a 37-16 lead into the locker room.
Dassylva led Utica with a double-double at the break, 10 points and 13 rebounds, and Kyle Walton had 11 points, which helped build the comfortable lead. Sheck, however, wasn’t about to let his team let its guard down in the second half.
“As a coach, you are never going to quit and I told our guys that Danville wasn’t going to quit,” Sheck said. “They were going to come out and play hard in the second half. We told them we have to continue to do what we do, and do the things we’ve been taught.”
As a result, the Redskins jumped on Danville, who got three points from Severns, immediately. A layin from Kyle Walton, a jumper by Metzger and a 3-pointer by Kevin Walton offset Severns’ points and made it a 44-19 game just over two minutes in. The Blue Devils, however, made the charge Sheck was expecting.
Severns hit a jumper to start a 12-4 run by Danville, which also got two big 3-pointers by Davis Culler along the way. A layup by Severns made it a 48-31 game, but Dassylva, who hit two jumpers for Utica’s only points in the run, helped lift Danville to a 53-31 lead after three with a free throw and a jumper.
“We played better in the second half,” said Selvey. “We got the shots we wanted more, more penetration and kicks rather than just constantly breaking down and fumbling the ball around.”
Danville made one last push over the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, getting five points from the free-throw line, and three more on another 3 by Culler. Culler’s bucket cut the lead to 16, 55-39, but that was as close as Danville could get. After trading shots, including two by Severns, Utica closed the game with a putback by Sam Preston, his first-ever varsity bucket, to cap the 61-43 win. Preston also had a key steal as time wound down.
“Our effort was great tonight, and it was a good atmosphere at home,” said Sheck. “This gives us three wins in a row to start the second half of the year, so I like where we are headed.”
Dassylva finished the game with a near triple-double. He had 17 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks. Kyle Walton added 15 points, and Kevin Walton finished with 11 points and two steals. Metzger also added eight points, seven rebounds and two assists.
“We preach effort areas — diving on a loose ball, boxing out and getting a rebound — and Justin has done a nice job all year,” said Sheck. “He’s averaging 12 rebounds a game for us; he’s got a knack for rebounding. Him setting the tone early really helped. His effort has been tremendous, and that’s helped our other guys.”
For Danville, Severns scored a game-high 19 points and pulled in eight rebounds. Culler had nine points; Shaun Durbin went 5-of-6 from the free-throw line and had three assists; and Moreland pulled in eight boards. Danville shot 16-of-21 from the charity striped for the game.
“(Our free-throw shooting) is something we work on,” Selvey said. “Part of that is because we are a good free-throw shooting team, but I can’t take 100 percent of the credit for that. They were pretty good at that when I got here, but I do think we have gotten better as the season has gone along.”
Both teams are right back at it tonight. Utica hosts Johnstown in another MBC game, while Danville hosts Loudonville. Both games begin with junior varsity at 6 p.m.
In reserve action, Utica jumped ahead early and raced to a 61-22 victory. Artie Douglas led the Redskins (8-5) with 13 points, and Bryson Tussey scored 11 points. Sam Preston added eight points. Ian Green led Danville with nine points, and Quinton Ferenbaugh chipped in seven points.