BY CHAD DARE
Missed shots were not a topic of conversation with Danville Area Community College redshirt freshman Stephanie Lord on Wednesday night.
Instead, most everyone leaving the Mary Miller Gymnasium was talking about her hustle play with just under 2 minutes remaining in the Region 24 tournament quarterfinal with John Wood.
Lord’s diving save on the sideline and subsequent making 1-of-2 free throws helped the Lady Jaguars pull out a 50-40 victory over the Lady Blazers.
“The thought in my mind, this was my last time of playing here, so I wanted to leave everything I had on the floor,’’ said Lord, who was just 1-of-12 from the field and finished with just six points. “I dove twice for a ball going out of bounds, but that was the big one.’’
DACC coach Kyle Bent turned that play from a turnover into a scoring opportunity that did result in 1 point.
“We’ve had a lot of good moments this year, but her diving to save the ball was the best moment of the year — easily,’’ he said. “The crowd loved it, and I loved it. It gave us that extra spark. It was a great job by Stephanie.’’
And for Lord, it was a fitting end for her career at the Mary Miller Gymnasium. The redshirt freshman from Lynn, Ind., has had to deal with a number of injuries, but those things didn’t matter during a tournament game.
“We told all of them, that they have done a really good job in two years of winning 40 games,’’ Bent said. “You don’t want people to think about your last game and not giving 110 percent.
“All of our girls gave it everything they had and this was a really nice win.’’
It was the first region tournament win in Bent’s three-year career with the Lady Jaguars, who improve to 22-9 overall.
And DACC defeated John Wood thanks in large part to its defense.
“Honestly, it was our defense,’’ said DACC freshman Megan Hiner, who had a game-high 13 points. “We’ve been communicating and working on our defense all week. It was the spark for our team.’’
In the first 10 minutes of Wednesday’s quarterfinal contest, John Wood found itself trailing 14-2 as the Lady Blazers were just 1-of-7 from the field and they were guilty of 14 turnovers.
“They made a lot of turnovers and we took advantage of those turnovers,’’ said Hiner, as the Lady Jaguars scored 9 of their first 14 off of Lady Blazer miscues. “We still missed a lot of layups, but we did enough to win the game.’’
DACC had a 28-17 halftime advantage, but it could have been even bigger if the Lady Jaguars didn’t shoot 25 percent (4-of-16) on shots inside the paint.
“In the first half, I think we looked as good as we have all year,’’ Bent said. “In the second half, it got a little close. But we battled through our mistakes, missed layups, missed free throws, turnovers, bad reads on offense, bad reads on defense and we still won.
“They gutted it out. When we struggled on offense, the defense was there.’’
John Wood, which ends its year at 17-13, got as close as 41-39 on a basket by Alison Loos with 6 minutes, 15 seconds left.
“We had a lot of patience,’’ Lord said. “We never got down. There was never a doubt in my mind that we weren’t going to win this game.
“We had faith in each other and our coach.’’
The Lady Blazers went on to miss their next five shots, a front end of a one-and-one and they committed three turnovers in the next 4:52.
And Lord’s hustle play came in the middle of that run allowing DACC to take a 44-39 advantage.
The Lady Jaguars sealed the victory by making 6-of-8 free throws in the final 40 seconds.
With the victory, DACC advances to the Region 24 Tournament semifinals against top-seeded and No. 4-rated Illinois Central (27-3).
“We know that people are going to overlook us,’’ Lord said. “I like going in as the underdog, because rankings don’t mean anything in March.’’
That game will be played on the Illinois Central College campus and tip off is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday. In the other semifinal Parkland College with face Lake Land College.
“This is the first step,’’ Bent said. “We will have to be ready to go, but if we play like we did tonight — I like our chances.’’