By Justin Whitaker
DANVILLE — Halfway through the first quarter, on one shot, it became quite apparent that Danville's Ian Asher was not going to allow his team to lose.
The 6-foot-1 senior, without hesitation, fired a straight-on 3-pointer that was deep by NBA standards and closer to the midcourt timeline than the 3-point line. The ball swooshed in, barely touching the net before hitting the floor.
It was that kind of night for Asher as he scored a game- and career-high 39 points to will the Warriors to an 80-59 sectional-opening victory over Beech Grove.
"He was all over the place," Danville coach Brian Barber said laughing. "He was on. That's what you expect a senior leader to do in a game like this. He rose to the occasion, did a good job of distributing the ball, hitting shots, and running the floor - doing all things he's capable of doing. He had a very good ball game for us."
Asher shot 12 for 20 from the field, including three 3-pointers and 12-of-13 from the charity stripe. He also added four blocks, three assists, two rebounds, and two assists before leaving the game for the first time with 40 seconds remaining.
"I'm not satisfied until we get a sectional championship, a regional, semistate, and state," Asher said of his motivation. "It's my senior year and I'm not going to let my season end with a loss."
Asher's 39 points were only four shy of a Danville single-game record of 43 points set by Nick Scott.
"He was just outstanding all the way around tonight," Barber said. "We've got to continue that for tomorrow."
Danville will meet Northwest, winners of its last nine games, at 7:30 p.m. in tonight's sectional final.
To beat the Space Pioneers, Danville will need an all-around team effort as they had against Beech Grove. While Asher led the way, nine of the 10 Warriors who played last night scored.
"We've been doing that all year," Barber said. "We've been playing 10 guys. Some games certain guys get to play more than others. Sometimes someone is playing really well depending on the matchup."
C.J. Just had eight points, Tyler Ross and Mitchell Collier scored six points apiece, and Avery Motes and Scott Amor each scored five points.
The Warriors never trailed after an Asher 3-pointer near the end of the first quarter to take a 17-14 lead.
Danville led by four points after the first quarter, 11 at halftime and 19 after three.
"We were playing a lot of guys and keeping fresh people out there," Barber said. "We got a good run going, some guys made some shots, and we got some defensive stops and rebounds. Those are things you've got to do to win in the sectionals."
Northwest (16-6) beat Tri-West 86-62 to set up a battle for the sectional title.
"Nothing against Beech Grove, but Northwest or Tri-West is going to come out fighting harder," Asher said. "We've got to give it all we've got."