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Danville girls beat Boyle 78-37

By MIKE MARSEE
Contributing Writer

This is a very good year for experience.

Sure, there’s never a bad year to have an experienced basketball team, but it appears to be even more of an advantage in this unique season.

Judie Mason certainly feels that way. The Danville girls’ coach said experience has been advantageous to her team in the opening weeks of a season that has been and continues to be rearranged due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lady Admirals’ 78-37 victory over Boyle County on Tuesday night was their fourth lopsided win in their first five games. Mason said the reduced preseason practice time and the stops and starts forced by COVID-related cancellations and postponements haven’t been easy to deal with, but she said her senior-laden team has been able to roll with the changes.

“It’s hard, but I’ve got six seniors, which makes it a whole lot easier,” Mason said. “If I had a young team, I think it would be a whole lot harder. But I told them we’re just fortunate to get out here and play the game, and I want them to play every game like it could be their last one, because it could be.”

The Lady Admirals’ drive was on display Tuesday at Rebel Arena as they rolled to their seventh consecutive win over Boyle. They led 11-2 midway through the first quarter and never looked back.

Four players scored in double figures for visiting Danville (4-1), led by Desiree Tandy with 15 points. Ahyana Burnett added 14 points, followed by Love Mays with 13 and Camryn Preston with 11.

Mason said the Lady Admirals’ greatest strength this season is the fact that most of them have been playing together at the varsity level for three years.

“It’s just experience, just playing together,” she said.

Indeed, the only major roster changes are the departure of Ivy Turner, an All-State player who graduated in 2019 and now plays for Northern Kentucky University, and the arrival of Mays, a junior who transferred from Mercer County last summer.

Danville’s four wins have been by an average score of 81-43. And even without two possible starters who are currently sidelined, the Lady Admirals had too much firepower for Boyle (1-2), which is on the other side of the experience divide. The Lady Rebels have only one senior and started two sophomores and a freshman against Danville.

They started their season later than any other team in the region — their first game was Friday — then played three games in five days.

“When you start off your season like that, it’s hard, especially with a young team,” Boyle coach Ryan Wiersma said. “We have a very competitive group, but there’s some conditioning, there’s some mental aspects that we’re still learning because we are young.”

Peyton Bugg scored 12 points for Boyle, but no other Lady Rebel had more than the six points scored by Ella Coffey and Zoey Robbins.

Boyle had 23 fewer shots from the field. The Lady Rebels shot 34 percent from the field; the Lady Admirals shot 45 percent.

While Boyle is finding its way, Danville is dreaming big. The Lady Admirals’ goal is to win the 12th Region for only the second time in program history, and they’re willing to do what’s necessary to give themselves a chance at that championship.

“We’ve talked about it since day one: We want to play in the Sweet Sixteen,” Mason said. “This is our year. We’ve fought for this, we’ve worked three years for it, and we’re just going to keep working and that’s going to be our goal.”

The Danville seniors may not have a “normal” senior season, but Mason said having so many seniors makes a difference in this unusual year.

“It’s humongous,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine being a young coach or having a young team.”

Boyle is in both of those boats. Wiersma is in his second season as coach, and his 14-person varsity roster includes only two upperclassmen.

“But the thing that we have is we have kids that compete,” he said. “You could see in our kids’ eyes tonight (something) that I haven’t seen last year here, that this hurt. They’re going to be driven to do this, (regardless of) whether they’re young.”

The Lady Rebels made their share of mistakes Tuesday. Several of their 21 turnovers were converted to baskets on the other end during a 24-2 run in the second half that stretched Danville’s lead to 67-26.

Tandy scored nine points during that run, while Mays had 10 points and Camryn Preston had nine in the first half as the Lady Admirals built a 32-16 lead.

Even as Boyle struggled, the Lady Rebels made sure to celebrate their small successes. Defensive stops, hustle plays and other highlights were met by cheers from teammates on the floor and on the bench.

“That’s all them,” Wiersma said. “They know for us to be successful we have to be one unit.

Doesn’t matter if you’re in or you’re one of our JV players sitting behind the bench; you have to be bought into this program, and they all are.”

Wiersma said Boyle is best when it moves the ball quickly around the perimeter, but he noted that’s particularly difficult to do against Danville, which he said is a top-10 team.

“But we did some things that we can fix to stay in that game,” he said. “So our team is so much better off than where we were 24 hours ago, even after we take this loss. In 24 more hours we’ll watch the film, and our group is ready to learn and eager, so we’ll be better in 24 more hours, too.”

Masked up: The entire Danville team is wearing masks during its games this season, not just on the bench but on the court as well.

Mason said that was her mandate, one she said that was born initially out of a desire to protect the families of the players and coaches — including her own aging mother — but also intended to keep them on the floor as they pursue their goals.

“These kids want to play so bad, and they know this is it for them. So I think that’s made them be a whole lot more safe, and that’s why they were OK with playing in masks,” Mason said. “We think it gives us a little more leeway if we wear them.”

Mason said she hasn’t seen any other players wearing masks while on the floor, and certainly not any entire teams. She said opposing coaches have asked her whether the players minded the masks, and she has been quick to answer.

“Once we started wearing them, they never complained,” she said. “You never know they may make a mandate and we have to wear them. And we’ll be ahead of the game.”

Bounce back: Improved 3-point shooting helped the Danville boys post their most impressive win of the young season, a 79-57 victory over Belfry on Monday in Lexington.

Three days after the Admirals went 4 for 15 from behind the line in a narrow loss to Somerset in the finals of the 12th Region All “A” Classic, they were 7 for 20 against Belfry.
Dante Hayden, who scored 25 points, was 3 for 9 from 3-point range. Jarius Bryant, who set his career scoring high for the second straight game with 21 points, was 2 for 4.

Pickup games: Schedule changes are coming quickly for local teams as games are called off due to COVID-19 concerns. The Danville girls found out Friday they would not get to play the 12th Region All “A” Classic championship game when their opponent turned back en route to the game.

Teams are constantly working to redraw their schedules, either to reschedule games that were called off or to find new opponents to replace those that could not play.

“It takes 30 minutes a day that I need to be doing other things for my team,” Wiersma, the Boyle coach, said.

Here are some recent and upcoming games that have been canceled or postponed:
• Boyle County girls — Monday at Garrard County.
• Danville girls — Friday vs. Garrard County.
•Boyle County boys — Friday vs. Lincoln County; Saturday vs. Ashland Blazer.
• Danville boys — Tuesday vs. Berea.

Mason, whose team is in the middle of its second one-week schedule gap, said she’s constantly looking for games.

“If I can find a game tomorrow, I’ll play,” she said.

Sweet Sixteens set: The KHSAA announced Tuesday that dates for the boys and girls state tournaments have been set. The Boys Sweet Sixteen will be March 31-April 3, followed by the Girls Sweet Sixteen April 7-10.

Both tournaments will be played at Rupp Arena in Lexington. Attendance will be limited to 15 percent of capacity.

The regular season continues through March 13. District tournaments are scheduled for the week of March 15; regional tournaments will be played the week of March 22.

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