JOHNSTOWN — The tough defensive pressure from top-seeded Fairfield Christian Academy forced several Danville (No. 6) turnovers Wednesday, which translated to quick Knights points and an 87-52 Blue Devil loss in the Division IV District semi-final in Johnstown.
“Turnovers killed us tonight,” Danville coach Matt Proper said. “I don’t know if it was the pressure of the game or whatever got to us, but it seemed like we just were rushing everything. Confidence was kind of lacking tonight.”
One possible reason for the lower confidence was the lack of one of Danville’s major keys, CeCe Newbold. She suffered a concussion in Saturday’s game against Shekinah Christian and was unable to suit up in Wednesday’s game.
The Knights came ready to play, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Fairfield Christian had a 14-9 lead, but used stifling defense to pull ahead 22-9. Celeste Mershimer, the reigning Division IV Central District Player of the Year, powered the Knights to 10 points in the quarter. The Blue Devils did not go away quietly, closing out the quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers from Erin Mickley and Brooklyn Hess, who’s came from way behind the arc at the buzzer. The quick six points cut the lead to 22-15 at the end of the first.
Danville carried the quick turnaround into the second quarter and cut the lead to 28-24 with 4:38 to go in the second frame.
“We started looking for attacking and kicking and got some open looks,” Proper said. “Scoring-wise, we kind of got after them a little bit there, but it just seemed like we were trading buckets too much. We weren’t getting stops to cut into the lead enough.”
Four points was as close as the Blue Devils got for the rest of the game, as the Knights ended up exploding for 23 points in the second quarter. Mershimer poured in another nine points and Janae Grabans added six points. Danville had six scorers in the second, but only managed 16 points as a team to fall behind 45-31.
The Knights’ scoring dropped to 18 points in the third, but Danville was limited to 11 to fall behind even farther. Sophie Sterling got more into the scoring action for the No. 1 seed, scoring seven in the quarter, to go along with five from Mershimer and four from Hope Custer. Hess had four points in the third to lead the Blue Devils, but the lower seed was down 63-42 heading into the final frame.
Fairfield Christian closed out the game with its best scoring quarter, pouring in 24 points. Custer rattled home two treys on her way to eight points, and Grabans poured in six points of her own. Five Danville players scored in the fourth, but the team only had 10 points to fall by 35. The 87 points was one point off of Fairfield Christian’s school record of 88 points in a game.
Mershimer paved the way for the Knights, packing her stat line with 26 points, four boards, five assists and seven steals. Custer was not far behind with 21 points, four rebounds and five steals. Grabans finished with 16 points and Sterling added 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Emma Seals had seven points and Kennedy Couch and Lannah Prysi combined for six points.
Ally Bower was the lone Blue Devil in double digits with 11 points, which she combined with four rebounds and a dime. Mickley knocked down three triples on the night for nine points. Hannah Duncan started in place of the injured Newbold and put together a strong game, recording eight points, 10 rebounds, two assists and a steal.
“Hannah is hard-nosed and she works hard,” Proper said. “She rebounded the ball really well and was high-pointing it. She played physical and she had some good takes, too, on the offensive end.”
Bobbi Berger chipped in seven points and six rebounds, while Camie Newbold and Alenah Boeshart combined for five points.
The loss ends the Blue Devils’ season and gives them a 14-11 record on the year, including their three postseason games. With only one senior on this year’s team, Danville should be in good shape to pick up where they left off for next season.
“You try to store games like this away — the disappointment and the let down that your season is over while another team moves on,” Proper said. “I always tell them to store that feeling away, and that’s why you get up in the summer. That should motivate and drive you to work and better your game.”
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