BY CHAD DARE
After taking a year off, coming back to the basketball court wasn’t easy for Danville senior Jade Carter.
But the 5-foot-5 forward cannot think of a better way to spend her winter months at school.
On Thursday night, Carter scored 11 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead the Vikings past the Champaign Central Maroons 41-30 in a Big 12 Conference girls basketball contest.
“It was really tough coming back because I was so out of shape,’’ Carter admitted. “I’m back and I love it.
“Everything this year has been better than I expected. I’m happy and proud of this team.’’
And all that Danville has accomplished this season is a 12-5 overall record and the Vikings improved to 6-2 in the Big 12 with Thursday’s victory.
“This was a very big win for our team,’’ Carter said.
Danville first-year coach Brian Anderson echoed those sentiments as his team has won six of its last seven conference games.
“We have beaten some teams that we should have beaten,’’ he said. “This was the first time that we’ve beat a team that was ranked 12th in the state. It’s a good win for Danville.
“We needed to get a win against a real good team.’’
According to Anderson, the Vikings success this year isn’t about any changes on offense or defense. He has a simple explanation.
“We struggle shooting. We turn it over. We can’t make free throws. And we struggle making layups,’’ he said. “But they will compete.’’
And Carter is one of his leaders in that aspect of the game.
“Jade Carter is not going to get outworked any night,’’ Anderson said. “She provides a lot of toughness. If the ball is on the floor, she is usually on the floor.
“She is 5-5 and rebounds like she is 5-10. She might miss some layups and she might miss some free throws, but she will give great effort every night.’’
In Thursday’s victory over Central, Carter and senior forward Lynette Buggs, at 5-foot-7, combined for 20 points and 19 rebounds.
“Aggressiveness and just getting after it can overcome our lack of height,’’ said Buggs, who finished with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds. “Since we are typically smaller than every team we play, we just have to box people out and hustle after the ball.’’
And what about their offense?
“What we ran on offense was to open up the lane, and we just had to finish when we got the ball down deep,’’ Buggs said.
That was a problem early on as the Vikings missed several layups, but Carter and Buggs combined to make 9-of-16 shots.
“We just had to do a better job of focusing around the rim,’’ Buggs said. “We worked really hard on layups in practice this week and all of that work benefited us tonight.’’
The Maroons, who were playing without senior center Meme Evans, fall to 11-8 overall and 5-4 in the Big 12.
Donyae Schoffner was the leading scorer for Central with 10 points and she also pulled down eight rebounds.
Danville is back in action on Saturday with a 1 p.m. game at Decatur Eisenhower.
In the sophomore game, Danville defeated Central 38-35 as Alexis Hoskins had a game-high 18 points.