DANVILLE — After a 5-15 regular season, no one expected the Danville Blue Devils to be in this position. Making their first district appearance in over a decade, Danville will take on the Newark Catholic Green Wave tonight at the Columbus Fairgrounds Coliseum.
Getting to this Division IV Central District Semifinal wasn’t easy, but for the Blue Devil seniors — Weston Severns, Nick Stover, Robbie Moreland, Marcus Magers and Sam Armstrong — it is well worth the hard work. It is a chance to create memories that not many Danville squads have had.
“This is really cool to be able to make it here our senior year,” said Severns. “It has been a long time since Danville basketball has played at the coliseum, so it is pretty special.”
“We’ve got a great group of guys, so for all of us to put it all together at this time of year is exciting,” said Armstrong.
When first-year Danville coach Doug Selvey took over the team prior to the season, he wanted to change the environment that shrouded the program. After beating Millersport handily to open the season, it looked like he might be well on his way. Danville lost some close games, however, and could never get the confidence they showed in the opener back — at least not for several games.
“We got off to a slow start after beating Millersport, but we really started playing as a team and working together as the season went on,” said Stover. “It really helped our chemistry when we started playing as one instead of playing as individuals. ... We didn’t change a whole lot. We just started playing as a team, working the offense and getting everybody involved.”
“We all started realizing our roles, and figuring out what each one of us needed to do to be successful and help the team more,” said Severns. “I think our chemistry got better as we went along.”
“About halfway through the year, we finally figured out what we could accomplish if we played as a team,” said Moreland. “We found our roles, and learned a lot about ourselves.”
Severns led the way early on, carrying his team offensively through the first half of the season. His role and those of his teammates began to change as the season wore on, which was a welcomed transformation.
“It took a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Severns said. “It is good to see other guys being able to score. ... Guys started stepping up and that helped us quite a bit.”
“We knew Weston would always be able to score, but when guys like Shaun (Durbin), Robbie or Nick got on, it helped balance us out. It really helped because balance is everything,” said Magers.
As the team found balance, it began to find itself. Down the stretch, Selvey had his team playing some of their best ball of the season even if the wins and losses didn’t show it. One landmark win came when the Blue Devils beat their rival East Knox Bulldogs in overtime on the last Friday night of the season. That game — and the last-second shot to win it — gave the team a newfound confidence, which it carries with it still today.
“It was a last second shot, and that really boosted our morale and our confidence really went up,” said Stover. “After we beat East Knox, we stepped it up and realized we can play with anybody if we really put our minds to it. (Against Northridge and Centerburg), even though we didn’t win, we really started to work well as a team and our confidence went up because we were being competitive.”
“Beating East Knox was great because it was our Senior Night,” Moreland said. “We wanted that one more than anyone. We kept fighting even though we got down. It was just great. It gave us a lot of confidence. After that game, we knew we could compete with anyone.”
Danville will need that confidence when it takes on the Green Wave, the No. 1 seed in the Central District and the No. 1-ranked team in the state, tonight. Looking at the matchup on paper, it may not seem like much of a game, but for this Danville squad, it is very much like the Super Bowl.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Stover. “It has been 11 years since a Danville team has been there. Either way, this is going to be an experience of a lifetime because not many teams get this far. It is going to be shocking at first, but once we settle down and focus, we’ll get our chance and take a crack at it.”
“This is a big thing,” said Armstrong. “We haven’t done this for 11 years, and we haven’t won a district championship over probably 30 years. It is a big opportunity to finally show that Danville basketball is back on the map.”
Playing at the coliseum is not an easy task. The wide-open backdrop and the bright lights cause many a team problems. The Blue Devils have been working on some things to help combat that, and Selvey knows best. He played there himself in 2003 as part of the fourth-seeded Mount Gilead team that made it to the Division III District Final.
“At first, we might be a little star struck because of the big environment, but I think we will be alright,” Severns said. “We’re used to being the underdog. Now it is just on a little bigger scale.”
“We’ve been the underdog all year,” said Moreland. “We’re not changing our game plan. We just look at this as another game on the schedule. ... Their defense is pretty good, so our offense is going to have to step it up. I think we match up well.”
When you factor in the underdog role of this Danville squad and the rivalry which carries over from the football field between these two schools, tonight’s battle could be an epic one.
“We’re Danville and they are Newark Catholic,” said Magers. “They are going to want to beat us just like we want to beat them. I think they are going to come in with the attitude that they are 100 percent sure that they are going to beat us. That gives us an extra boost, and maybe they’ll look past us a little bit.”
“We don’t mind being the underdog,” added Armstrong. “Anyone can beat anyone on any given night.”