DANVILLE — Senior night is an evening full of mixed emotions, bittersweet goodbyes and an opportunity to pay homage to your school and community while taking your home court one last time and leaving it all on the floor forever.
For the Danville Warriors (15-5), who will host sectionals this year, it was nothing more than an opportunity to embarrass Sagamore Conference rival Crawfordsville (4-14) as they ran the Athenians out of the gym 85-59.
A back-and-forth first half resulted in an uncomfortable 35-27 lead at halftime for the Warriors.
But in the third quarter senior Ian Asher scored 18 of his 27 points during a 25-5 run that started a “just like football” chant from the Danville student section and ultimately sent Crawfordsville packing.
“I made my first two shots and then they stuck on me more so in the second quarter my passing and distribution of the ball got them back off me so in the third quarter they didn’t know how to play me,” Asher said. “When we accept our roles there is not a team in the state that can hang with us and now that we are back to playing Danville basketball we are a tough team to beat.”
The Warriors took advantage of the Athenians 21 turnovers and kept a press on Crawfordsville almost all game. Having a gameplan is nice on paper but when a team can execute defensively and capitalize offensively the way Danville did it is sure to result in a win almost every time. It was obvious the Warriors were playing for their seniors Saturday night as much as they were playing for momentum as the end of the regular season draws near.
“We’re a pressing team and we wanted to make it an uptempo game because Crawfordsville is more of a half court team so we wanted to speed it up on offense and defense,” Danville coach Brian Barber said. “The last two weeks we’ve been talking about urgency and paying attention to details. We always say ‘teams that improve in February win championships in March’ so we’ve got to improve next week and be ready for Monrovia.”
If that is the blueprint for success Danville has already laid the foundation. Saturday night could not have been a better indication that this team is improving. Along with Asher’s performance, fellow seniors Avery Motes and C.J. Just contributed to the cause with a relentless effort. Motes was singlehandedly responsible for a 9-0 run that was the result of three straight 3-pointers while Just had two drives that ended with two points and a free throw before Barber emptied his bench.
“I caught the ball on the third one and I was feeling it and I knew the shots were going in,” Motes said.
“Tonight I was just in the zone,” Just said. “I haven’t been doing my roll so I knew I had to step it up.”
But the bigger story for those three is the paths that got them all to Danville, together. Asher, who left after his freshman year, transferred back from Covenant Christian at the beginning of this year while Just didn’t arrive at Danville until his sophomore year after he transferred from Avon.
Going forward there is only one goal.
“Not let our season end,” Asher said. “I love these guys. I’ve never had a bond like I’ve had with them.”