DANVILLE — The seventh-seeded Danville Blue Devils fought off the near ending of their season with a second half spark that carried them to a 54-46 victory over the visiting Granville Christian Lions (the 12th seed) in their OHSAA first round Division IV sectional matchup Tuesday.
“We came out flat in the first half,” said Danville coach Matt Moore. “We didn’t accomplish anything we were trying to do — offensively or defensively. We didn’t execute, but we were only down by four at halftime.”
Leading the way for the Blue Devils were Dylan James (17 points, two rebounds) and Corbin Hazen (14 points, nine rebounds, six assists). It was James’ five 3-pointers in the first half that kept Danville’s hopes on life-support, while he and his teammates tried to adjust to the aggressive Lions’ defense. The Lions had the edge in offensive rebounds 6-3 in the first half. They also out-performed the Devils in steals, 6-2, before halftime, converting on half of those steals and building their lead to as high as seven points, twice in the opening half.
“They put more heart into it than we did in the first half,” Hazen said. “We knew what we had to do, but they had more energy,”
A quick bucket and a 3-pointer by Joe Benvie ratcheted up the Lions’ lead to 32-25 to open the second half. Then, Danville’s Darren Mickley gave the Devils a jolt, landing a pair of 3-pointers in the middle of the third quarter to close the Lions’ lead to 32-31.
“We tried to get up and pressure with our defense, as well,” said Moore. “We had some good shots. We tried to get the ball to the middle and work the inside-out. We did a much better job of that in the second half.”
The Devils defense stiffened after that, only allowing the Lions four field goals and a pair of steals over the final 15 minutes of the game.
“It seems that, whenever we get something, the team just gets energy,” Hazen said. “Then, we share the ball and shoot better and things go well for us.”
Danville finally took the lead at the end of the third quarter, when Skylar Moore took a last-second shot from past the top of the key. He seemed to will that ball through the hoop for his only points of the game. That 3-pointer gave Danville a 39-37 lead. The 14-point swing was completed, when Mickley hit a 3 and a 2 to open the fourth quarter. That gave Danville a 44-37 lead.
A clutch 3-pointer by Danville’s Ethan Hawk and 7-of-8 free throw shooting by his teammates down the stretch were more than enough to ice it for the Devils.
“Our seniors really stepped up and took care of the basketball when they needed to,” Moore said.
The win puts the Blue Devils into the next round, where they face second-seeded Berne Union. The game is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at Berne Union High School.
“We’re going to have to play a lot better than we did tonight, offensively and defensively,” Moore said. “Our defense will need to box out.”
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