BY CHAD DARE
Dealing with adversity is something the Danville Area Community College women’s basketball team has done all season.
The Jaguars started the year with 12 players and they now find themselves with only eight heading into tonight’s Region 24 Tournament opener at home against John Wood Community College.
“That’s been one of the major challenges we’ve faced,’’ said DACC sophomore Hillary Lively, the former North Vermillion standout. “But with the injury losses, we’ve developed a lot more team chemistry.
“We accomplish our goal of getting more than 20 wins, so we’ve dealt with adversity pretty well.’’
DACC (21-9) started the year with one of its biggest losses. Kayton Cole, the player of the year and the freshman of the year in Mid-West Athletic Conference, was lost after just one game to an injury.
“That was a big blow, but we took it in stride,’’ said Lively, who leads the Jaguars in scoring at 12.5 points per game. “We had Tori (Stephenson) step up as a freshman point guard. From that point on, we knew we had to work harder.’’
With the loss of Cole, Lively and Tierra Golightly were the only two players with a substantial amount of playing time returning, while sophomore Emily Montgomery missed most of her freshman year.
But those three have been the leaders for the Jaguars as Golightly is second in scoring (10.5) and she leads in rebounding (6.7) while Montgomery is third in scoring (10.1) to go along with 5.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
“We’ve had some off games this season, but we’ve bounced back and fixed our mistakes,’’ Montgomery said. “We’re ready for this tournament.’’
And why is DACC for this Region 24 Tournament?
“It takes a lot of good positive mental attitudes and team chemistry at this time of the year,’’ Montgomery said. “Anyone can be physically ready, but it’s more mental at this point.
“We are going to need to be hyped and mentally ready for this game.’’
That mental approach also helps the Jaguars deal with its limited bench with just eight players dressing for the game.
“We’ve actually played with only eight for a while,’’ Montgomery said. “It just means that we have to be in better shape than the other teams.
“The only problem is that it’s hard to stay up with only eight people when you do get tired.’’
Because of the injuries, DACC second-year coach Kyle Bent admits the team has had to make some adjustments.
“We don’t press as much as we did at the start of the year,’’ he said. “But all in all, it’s been a pretty good year.
“We’ve competed the way that I thought we could.’’
And that is going to be a key tonight when DACC faces the John Wood Trailblazers in a 6 p.m. game at the Mary Miller Gymnasium.
The two teams have split their games this season with the Jaguars winning 67-55 on Jan. 19 in Danville and the Trailblazers claiming a 64-54 triumph this past Saturday in Quincy.
“We want to get some revenge since they just beat us by 10 on Saturday,’’ Montgomery said.
And Bent said he kind of likes playing the same team for the second time in five days.
“Norm (Rodriguez) knows what I’m going to do and we know what he is going to do,’’ Bent said. “We beat them at home and we didn’t play particularly well there.
“It was like we were trying to run through water.’’
DACC knows it must be ready for John Wood’s multiple defensive sets.
“We can’t let their defenses, because he will change them, affect our sense of urgency on the offensive end,’’ Bent said. “We have to be active against their zone defense. We’re not big enough and we don’t shoot it well enough as a team to play a perimeter game.
“We have to get the ball inside to Hillary and Tierra, take advantage of our strengths.’’
Tonight’s game will tip off at 6 p.m. and admission is $5. The game can be heard locally on WDAN-AM 1490.
The winner advances to Saturday’s semifinals at Illinois Central College in East Peoria against an opponent to be determined.