Danville girls down Pulaski to reach regional final

Published 5:04 am Sunday, March 5, 2023

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Contributing Writer

SOMERSET — If there was any doubt that the Danville girls are a different team than they were three months ago, they removed it Saturday.

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The Lady Admirals turned the tables on the team that defeated them in their season opener, outplaying Pulaski County in the second half for a 67-53 victory in the semifinals of the girls 12th Region Tournament.

With their top player on the bench for the final four minutes, they not only held on but held fast, as other players stepped up to carry Danville across the finish line into the regional finals for the first time since 2014.

The Lady Admirals maintained a comfortable lead after leading scorer and point guard Love Mays fouled out as they reached 30 wins for the first time in school history.

“You’ve just got to gut it out at this time in the season, and I’m really proud of my sophomore class and the other seniors for stepping up with Love on the bench,” Danville coach Judie Mason said.

Danville’s late-game success underscored the fact that it is a better and deeper team than it was on Dec. 5, when the Lady Admirals lost 52-40 to Pulaski.

“We’ve watched that film so many times and laughed at ourselves,” Mason said. “We were absolutely horrible. … We couldn’t even run an offense, we couldn’t play half-court defense.”

Danville (30-2) made it to the championship game after losing in the regional semifinals in each of the past four seasons. The Lady Admirals will return to Pulaski to play Mercer County for a berth in the state tournament at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Mays gave Danville 30 points before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter, and the Lady Admirals had a 57-41 lead when she left the floor.

It was left to her teammates to finish the job, and they did that by contesting Pulaski’s shots, protecting the ball and making their own free throws.

“Every one of them stepped up,” Mason said. “Myla (Turner) handled the ball, Alayah handled the ball, Des handled the ball, Sami (Bottom), and we rebounded. The other kids stepped up, and I’m so proud of them.”

Pulaski (26-7) shot 50 percent from the field through three quarters but was just 4 for 16 in the fourth.

On the other end of the court, Quisenberry, Turner and Bottom combined to hit 10 of 14 free throws in the final 3:33.

Pulaski got baskets on three straight trips to cut the margin from 16 points to 10 in the first minute after Mays’ exit, but that was as close as the Lady Maroons came, as the Lady Admirals’ free-throw shooting allowed them to rebuild a 65-49 lead with 1:23 to play.

“You see that if you do try to stop Love, other people are going to contribute,” Mason said.

It was the second significant gut-check of the game for Danville, which opened a 24-13 lead in the second quarter and led 28-21 at halftime before Pulaski scored eight unanswered points in the first two minutes of the third quarter.

A layup by Turner briefly put the Lady Admirals back on top, and a three-point play by Mays on their next possession gave them the lead for good at 33-30.

Mays scored eight points and Turner had five in a 13-4 run that gave Danville a 52-39 lead with 6:03 remaining. The Lady Admirals took their largest lead at 57-41 before Mays, who played much of the first half with two fouls and a decent chunk of the fourth quarter with four fouls, was disqualified with 4:01 remaining.

Tandy scored 12 points, Turner had 11 and Bottom had eight for Danville, which shot 46 percent from the field and made 26 of 37 free throws, including 15 of 23 in the fourth quarter.

Nemeah Jackson scored her only two points on a significant basket late in the first period. The Lady Admirals trailed 7-3, Mays was on the bench and they were struggling to find ways to score when Jackson went into the lineup and got inside for a layup on their next possession.

That opened things up for Danville, which got 3-point goals on its next four possessions — one by Tandy, one by Bottom and two by Mays — to go up 17-11.

Sydney Martin, Pulaski’s leading scorer and the state’s top free-throw shooter at 88.3 percent, went 9 for 9 at the foul line and had 18 points, but her mobility was limited by a sprained left ankle.

Danville faces another rematch in the title game against a Mercer team it defeated 49-48 on Dec. 13 in Harrodsburg. Mays’ layup with 19 seconds remaining was the winning basket.

Mercer ended Danville’s season a year ago with a 76-69 win in the regional semifinals. Danville defeated Mercer 68-58 in the 2014 final for its only regional championship.