Lady Ads fall in All “A” Classic
By MIKE MARSEE
BARDSTOWN — This was not the All “A” experience the Danville girls had in mind.
Playing not in a collegiate arena but in a bandbox, where a reconfigured bracket placed them on the home court of the top-rated team in the field, the Lady Admirals got nothing that they were looking for in the All “A” Classic.
Instead, they got tossed out in the first round Thursday night in a 75-57 loss to Bethlehem, and coach Judie Mason said it hardly felt like they were in the tournament at all.
“It’s hard to come over here and get your kids in a state tournament mindset when it’s on a Thursday night at Bethlehem,” Mason said. “But it is what it is, and that’s a good ball club.”
The Danville coach wasn’t knocking Bethlehem or its facility, but she wasn’t happy with a seemingly arbitrary first-round matchup that paired the two highest-rated teams in the 16-team field.
“I think it’s horrible that we have to come here and play in the All ‘A’ and call it a state tournament,” Mason said.
The Lady Admirals had their own designs on making a run at the championship of the statewide small-school tournament, which was to be played entirely in Richmond before it was first canceled and then resurrected last week.
The first two rounds of the tourney were moved to local sites, so Danville had to go west instead of east. And it wasn’t long before things went south.
Bethlehem (16-3) got the upper hand in the first half thanks to hot shooting, then put Danville (11-4) away with a third-quarter surge in which the Banshees capitalized on the Lady Admirals’ missed shots.
“We just didn’t make shots,” Mason said. “I didn’t think we played bad. They got some runouts, and a good ball club is going to do that.
“I told them that they would make their runs, and I felt like they made a couple runs and we missed shots, and that’s when they got ahead of us and pulled it out.”
Danville’s deficit reached double digits midway through the second quarter but was down to five points in the opening seconds of the second half. It was 47-40 when the Lady Admirals went cold and the Banshees finished them off with a 12-0 run that gave them a 59-40 lead with 1:02 remaining in the third period.
The Lady Admirals were unable to practice for nine of 11 days during the recent run of severe winter weather, and Mason said that left them unable to fully employ their preferred pressure defense.
“We couldn’t get in our press because, No. 1, we’re out of shape now, and No. 2, their guards are pretty daggone good,” she said.
Bethlehem’s top two players, forward Ella Thompson and guard Amelia Hodges, took turns working Danville over. The two combine to average 34.2 points per game, and they were 12 points better than that Thursday.
Hodges hit four 3-pointers in an 18-point first half and finished with 24 points and seven assists. Thompson took over in the third quarter, when she scored 12 of the Banshees’ 21 points, and finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds.
Bethlehem shot 52 percent from the field — it was 5 for 8 from 3-point range — while Danville shot 35 percent and was outrebounded 41-28.
Love Mays led the Lady Admirals with 15 points, and Camryn Preston and Desiree Tandy added 11 points each.
The loss was the first in seven games for Danville, which was bounced from the All “A” for the second straight year by Bethlehem. The Banshees defeated the Lady Admirals 53-36 in the semifinals on their way to winning the event last year.
Danville, making its eighth straight All “A” appearance and its 13th overall, was supposed to play Metcalfe County in the original tournament bracket, but the pairings were changed when the format was revised.
A proposal from tournament officials called for teams from consecutively numbered regions to be placed in four-team pods — 12th Region champion Danville would have been grouped with teams from Regions 9-11 — but the bracket released after the tourney’s board of directors voted to revive the event didn’t follow that plan, and Danville was placed with teams from Regions 5-7.
Mason said she still hasn’t been told why the plan was altered, and she said neither she nor Bethlehem coach Jason Clark was happy about their first-round matchup.
This was the only All “A” game Danville played. The Lady Admirals were declared the regional winner because every other team in that field was in quarantine due to COVID-19 protocols.
“If we’d have won, it would have been different. But with us losing, I don’t think this was a state tournament game,” Mason said. “I’m going to pretend this didn’t happen, because we didn’t even have to play a game to get here. … I don’t even feel like we’ve had the All ‘A.’”
Mason will, however, make sure her players learn from the experience they gained against Bethlehem.
“This kind of game can make you or break you for the rest of the year,” she said. “That team right there is as good as anybody in our region, so this game … is going to help us more to get ready for the district than anything.
“We’re going to take tomorrow off and refresh, and then we’re going to come back and try to get the No. 1 seed for the district and try to fight for the regional tournament.”
Unmasked: The Lady Admirals played without face masks for the first time this season Thursday.
Mason mandated mask-wearing for her team not only on the bench but on the court in an attempt to protect the families of the players and coaches from the spread of COVID-19 and to try to avoid a team quarantine.
She said she promised the players they could leave the masks on the bench during the All “A” Classic, and they were excited about that.
“I have begged them to be safe up to the All ‘A.’ I have begged them to do the right thing, to not go to parties, to not be out socializing, out eating,” Mason said. “They have sacrificed since the first day of practice to get to the All ‘A,’ and I told them if they got here that I’d let them unmask.”
Mason said the masks will go back on for the rest of the regular season, but she said she couldn’t be more pleased with the commitment her players have made not just to wear the masks, but to take other steps to stay safe.
“These kids have done everything I’ve asked them to do leading up to this game,” she said. “I’m so, so, so proud of them, because that’s hard for teenagers to do.”