BY CHAD DARE
Basketball is a simple game when the ball goes into the hoop.
Unfortunately on Wednesday night, the Danville girls basketball team had problems getting that accomplished and those shooting woes ultimately cost the Lady Vikings a shot at the IHSA Class 4A regional championship.
Bradley-Bourbonnais advanced to tonight’s title game with a 40-31 victory over Danville at Bradley-Bourbonnais High School.
“We were pretty bad tonight, there is no getting around it,” Danville coach Brian Anderson said. “We picked a bad night to not play well. We missed a lot of layups and we missed a lot of free throws.”
The Vikings, who end their year at 17-11, made just 21 percent of their shots (12-of-57) and they were 5-of-14 from the free-throw line.
“One of weaknesses this year was shooting and it was exploited tonight,” said Danville senior Alexus Jimson-Miller, who was 2-of-18 from the field and finished with just six points. “I wish we could have made more shots and executed better.
“Some of the time we rushed our shots and some of it might have been the nervousness of being on the big stage.”
No matter the reason, Danville really struggled in the final two quarters. The Vikings made just 5-of-30 shots in the second half (16.7 percent) and they missed their final six shots from the field and the front end of two one-and-one opportunities.
“We missed a bunch of point-blank looks,” Danville’s Anderson said. “I bet we missed eight or nine layups in this game and that makes a big difference.”
The Boilermakers, who improve to 15-12, scored the game’s final nine points after the Vikings had tied the game at 31-31 on a 3-pointer from Breanna Keys, who led Danville with 15 points coming off the bench.
In the first half, the Vikings built a 16-14 lead as they scored 11 of their points off of 15 first-half turnovers by the Boilermakers.
“In that first half, we didn’t take care of it,” Bradley-Bourbonnais coach Brian Anderson said. “They exploited that and we had a discussion about it at halftime.
“We handled the ball better in the second half, we moved it and our girls played well.”
Bradley-Bourbonnais still turned the ball over 10 times in the second half, but Danville capitalized for just five points off of those offensive miscues.
“It’s tough to keep guarding hard and keep guarding when you are not scoring,” Danville’s Anderson said. “They also did a better job of handling the ball, but we can’t set up our press if we’re not scoring.
“Especially in the third quarter, we couldn’t get our defense set up, because we didn’t score.”
The Vikings went scoreless for 4 minutes, 10 seconds in the third quarter and the Boilermakers turned a 19-19 tie into a 23-19 during that stretch. Danville would never take the lead again, only getting as close as the 31-31 tie with 2:46 left. Jimson-Miller spent most of that time on the bench with cramps in her feet and her right calf.
“She was hurting,” Danville’s Anderson said. “Any time she comes off the court, we struggle – everything gets a little chaotic.”
Bradley-Bourbonnais freshman Jasmine Elliott recorded a double-double for the Boilermakers with game-high 19 points to go along with a game-high 14 rebounds.
“She is a like a silent killer,” said Anderson of Bradley-Bourbonnais. “She is right there at the right time. I’m so excited to have her for four years. She eats, sleeps and breathes basketball.”
While the 17 wins are the most for a Danville girls basketball team since 2006-07 season, Anderson knows there is still room for improvement.
“It was a nice season. I appreciate their effort,” said Anderson after his first season with the Lady Vikings. “We’re just not real skilled. We have to get better this summer. I really appreciated the effort by the seniors.
“I just wish we could have finished better. That was a very winnable game. We just didn’t play well in a big game.”