BY CHAD DARE
Breanna Keys didn’t quite get the type of start to her senior season that she expected.
Keys had just six points in Danville’s season-opening 31-30 win over Monticello on Thursday night.
“I didn’t play as well as I could, coach got on me and I knew I had to come out and be a leader tonight,’’ Keys said.
That’s exactly what the 5-foot-5 senior guard did for the Lady Vikings.
Keys scored 12 of her game-high 15 points in the final 10 minutes to lead Danville past Bismarck-Henning 35-21 in the Blue Star Classic at Champaign St. Thomas More.
“To her credit, she responded and made some plays,’’ Danville coach Brian Anderson said. “She needs to let the game come to her. She hit some shots and I thought she made some nice plays off the dribble to feed her teammates.’’
While her scoring in the second half was a big contribution, Keys also had a pair of key assists for the Vikings (2-0).
“She really made a nice decision at the end of the half,’’ said Anderson, noting her assist on Kalynn Mason’s basket giving Danville a 16-10 halftime lead. “She played much better and we played better because of it.’’
But, what changed for the Vikings in the final 10 minutes of the game on the offensive end?
Danville made 7-of-11 shots during that stretch after making just 7-of-28 in the previous 22 minutes.
“We didn’t hesitate as much down the stretch,’’ Keys said. “When we got a good look at the basket, we took good shots and we made them.’’
While the Vikings found their shooting touch, the Blue Devils struggled to score.
Bismarck-Henning (0-2) made just 2-of-16 shots in the first quarter and for the game, the Blue Devils were a disappointing 8-of-36 (22.2 percent).
“When you don’t bring a lot of energy or a lot of enthusiasm, the focus isn’t what is should be,’’ Bismarck-Henning coach Mike Stephens said “We missed some awfully easy shots in the first half that could have put us in a good position.’’
Abby Bergman, a 5-foot-10 senior, scored five of her team-high 10 points in a two-minute stretch of the third quarter as Bismarck-Henning got within 19-15.
But, that was as close as the Blue Devils would get as they had turnovers on their next four possessions.
“Bergman hit a couple of big shots and things lifted, but it didn’t take off from there,’’ Stephens said. “We couldn’t get it going.
“I thought Danville played with a lot more effort than we played with in this game.’’
That was evident in the defense from the Vikings and their ability to win the rebounding battle (30-26) thanks to a game-high 12 rebounds from Jade Carter.
“She scraps,’’ said Anderson of Carter. “She is 5-5, guarding a 5-10 girl, but she can go up and get it.
“That is a lot of rebounds for a 5-5 girl that should be playing a guard.’’
While Carter was able to thrive playing out of position, Bismarck-Henning struggled with five new starters on the court from last year’s Vermilion Valley Conference championship team.
“We’ve got kids in different roles, so that causes us some problems,’’ Stephens said. “But these kids have played basketball for a long period of time, just because we are in a different role it shouldn’t matter.
“When you don’t play really hard and when you don’t block off of the boards, I don’t think we can make an excuse for that.’’
Danville will take its 2-0 record into today’s third-round game against Springfield Southeast. Tip off is set for 1 p.m. at Parkland College.
“It feels great to be 2-0 in this tournament and to start the season,’’ Keys said. “We just hope we can keep it going.’’
Senior Alexus Jimson-Miller had game-highs in assists (three) and steals (four) for Danville.
Bismarck-Henning will play Urbana in the 2:30 p.m. game today at Parkland.