DANVILLE — In a county matchup Monday, the Danville Blue Devils built a 30-15 halftime lead before watching it evaporate. The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets came roaring back in the second half, but couldn’t get any closer than three points, falling 55-51.
“For our first game, we came out and worked hard, in the first half especially, we executed really well,” Danville coach Matt Proper said. “Then we just did what we needed to do to get the W.”
Heading in to the final frame down 44-31, the Jackets kept fighting. A Bryn Elliott three cut the lead to 52-46 with 1:45 to go and a Layne Lepley free throw continued to trim the advantage to 52-47 with 1:04 left. Lepley notched another two buckets from the charity stripe with 35.3 ticks left to set the score at 52-49, but Ally Bower knocked down two freebies to nudge the lead to 54-49. Macee Marcum quickly got a bank shot to go with 17.9 seconds left with the Blue Devil lead at 54-51. Bobbi Berger hit a free throw in the waning seconds and two final shots by the Jackets both didn’t go, giving Danville the win.
“Give Danville credit, they hit their free throws down the stretch,” Mount Vernon coach Doug Savage said.
Neither team got out of the gates hot. Erin Mickley splashed home a three in the opening seconds of the game for Danville, but the teams were knotted at 9 apiece after the first quarter. In the second quarter, the three-ball started dropping for the Blue Devils with three in the stanza. The home team hung up 21 points in the second to notch 30 at the halftime horn.
“Everybody has a green light,” Proper said of the deep balls converting for the team. “We’re fairly young so we’re still trying to figure out where our role in the team is. … The girls started to look to score and we will take what we can get. Sometimes that is the highest percentage look on that open kick.”
In addition to the strong shooting, Danville’s half-court trap caused issues for the Jacket attack. Mount Vernon struggled to make its way in to good scoring position and went into the locker room with 15 points.
“Their half-court trap hurt us the first half,” Savage said. “We didn’t attack the half-court trap, that 1-2-2. They did a good job keeping the ball out of the middle and we turned it over quite a bit against the half-court trap. When you turn it over, you can’t score points so that’s why we ended up with 15.”
Mount Vernon came back from intermission with a gameplan and they started to break through the pressure and get some scoring opportunities. The Jackets cut the lead to 10 points (32-22) in the third, but thanks to Berger and Bower, who each had seven points in the third quarter, Danville held a 44-31 lead with eight minutes to go. Lepley did knock down two 3-pointers in the third quarter, finishing the frame with 10 points, while Elliott added another bucket from deep.
“They started beating our press a little bit and we didn’t rotate quite as quick as we did in the first half,” Proper said. “In the first game (of the year), we probably got a little gassed.”
The fourth quarter started the comeback for Mount Vernon. Lexi Shaffer helped lead the charge by figuring out a solid way through the press put on by the Blue Devils.
“Lexi is athletic,” Savage said. “She found some lanes. We spread the floor horizontally with our post girls. In the first half, we kept trying to throw it to that post girl with someone right on them. In the second half, Lexi actually started it with that dribble-drive through the whole thing. … That takes a little courage on her part and a little confidence.”
Although the Jackets did not pull off the win, the effort down the stretch was not lost on Savage.
“That was nice to see, just the competitiveness. That’s all you’re really looking for,” Savage said. “Just stand up and be counted. Be a competitor.”
Lepley notched a stellar game for the Jackets, leading all scorers with 25 points, including 10 from the charity stripe and nine from behind the arc. Shaffer and Elliott each had seven points, while Marcum kicked in six. Savvy Blubaugh and Celina Fritsch combined for six points.
CeCe Newbold led the way for the Blue Devils with 13 points before fouling out. Berger and Bower were both in double figures with 11 points apiece, while Brooklyn Hess had seven points and Mickley added six. Alenah Boeshart and Hannah Duncan combined for seven points.
Mount Vernon dropped to 0-2 on the young season and it returns to action on the road Wednesday against Big Walnut (7:30 p.m.). Danville is now 1-0 and begins Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference play Wednesday at home against Highland, tipping off at 7:30 p.m.
“It is a jumping off point to see where we’re at,” Proper said of Monday’s game. “We play Wednesday so we don’t have much time, but we will reflect a little bit.”