Lady Hawks fall in regional semifinals to second-ranked Sheffield
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
HANCEVILLE – Although the Lady Hawks lost in the regional tournament this season, the program's foundation has been laid and the future looks bright.
Danville dropped a 57-32 decision to Sheffield in the regional semifinals at Wallace State's Tom Drake Coliseum Feb. 25, unable to overcome a sluggish first half. The Lady Hawks trailed 38-7 at halftime.
"It's one thing to be down early when it's a game in November," Danville coach Paul Wilson said. "It's another thing to be down in a game of this magnitude; you get down a little and it seems like you just press even more and things just start to snowball on you. It was just something that we couldn't overcome."
Sheffield built up its lead to 45-9 in the third quarter and both teams went to their benches. Wilson put in an extremely young line-up that included three eighth graders – Ashley Nance, Kayloni Cross and Lacey Evans – along with freshman Sarah Terry and senior Bekah Boswell. The three eighth-graders were members of a Danville Middle School team that finished with an undefeated season.
That line-up played extremely well, sparking a 14-0 run that helped make the score a little more respectable for Danville. Nance scored a team-high 12 points and pulled down five rebounds in just a little over 10 minutes of playing time. The other reserves also made contributions – Cross had four steals, Terry scored three points and Evans finished with three assists.
"I want to make it clear, I didn't take the starters out because I was mad at them or they weren't hustling," Wilson said. "I wanted to take them out because I just wanted to give them a few minutes to relax. But to the credit of the younger kids who went in, they really got after it and it was hard for me to take them back out.
"Those young kids are very athletic. (Ashley Nance) is probably the most athletic player we have; not the best player, necessarily, but the most athletic."
Wilson eventually put his starters back in the game and played nearly everyone on his bench, rotating players in and out, as Danville outscored Sheffield in the second half 25-19, including 16-7 in the third quarter. But the first half deficit was too much for the Lady Hawks to overcome.
Danville trailed 5-1 early before Alaina Fitzgerald hit a three-pointer with 3:45 left in the first quarter to cut Sheffield's lead to one point. Unfortunately for the Lady Hawks, Fitzgerald's trey would be the last points Danville would score in the first half until Boswell hit a free throw with 2:57 left in the second quarter. At that point, Sheffield led 34-5.
"I thought the first five minutes or so went exactly like I'd hoped they'd go," Wilson said. "We knew we were going to have a tough time with their athleticism, and they hit a few three-pointers and were able to get into that press and we started to get a little tentative."
Danville had 18 first-half turnovers that Sheffield was able to convert into 24 points. The Lady Bulldogs hit five three-pointers in the first half, forced to go outside as Danville packed the paint with a sagging zone defense.
"Give Sheffield a lot of credit there," Wilson said. "We didn't think they could shoot very well from the outside and they made their shots and took what our defense gave them."
Senior Bethany Evans finished with eight points and four steals to tie for the team lead with Cross. Four different players had six rebounds – seniors Kristen Sparkman, Lauren Simmons and Boswell and junior Fitzgerald.
Alechia Summerhill had 11 points to lead Sheffield, which had 11 different players score at least a point.
Boswell, Evans, Sparkman, Simmons, Magen Linderman and Whitney Haggamaker were the six seniors who played their final game for Danville as the Lady Hawks finished with an 18-14 record.