By Justin Whitaker
DANVILLE — The postseason road for the Danville Warriors, the only county boys’ basketball team to win its sectional, has a giant roadblock in the way.
Class 3A No. 1 Mount Vernon (22-1) won its sectional and stands in the way at 10 a.m. at the Greencastle regional Saturday.
“This time of the year you can just throw the records out, everybody is good now,” Danville coach Brian Barber said.
The Marauders play a slower, ball control pace as they average 56.5 points per game and allow 41.3 points. The Warriors (18-5) are more of team that looks to attack in transition and averages 65.1 points per game and allows opponents 52.1 points.
Saturday’s contest is a battle of conflicting styles of play.
“It’s kind of a tale of two different types of teams,” Barber said. “We are more of a pressing, running, creating off our defense team and they are very good in the halfcourt. They are very patient. Their kids are very solid and very fundamental.”
While Mount Vernon averages close to nine points less than Danville, they have the ability to also score in bunches.
“It’s not uncommon for them to take 45 seconds off the clock before they take a shot,” Barber said. “They will work the ball, they don’t take bad shots. That’s not to say they can’t play fast, they have had some games they have scored in the 70’s this year but they’ve had a lot of games they’ve scored in the 30’s and 40’s too.”
The team that can play its style, fast or slow, will have a definite advantage.
“We’ve got to set the tone from the very beginning,” senior Ian Asher said. “We can’t get out and start playing their game.”
The Marauders only loss this season came against New Palestine on Feb. 15 and it was by a single point, 52-51. Mount Vernon’s top ranking and one defeat on the season do not intimidate the Warrior players.
“No, I would not say that we have been intimidated at all,” senior Avery Motes said. “If anything it is just motivation for us to work harder in practice throughout the week.”
Luckily for Danville, Barber feels they are playing the best they have all season. The Warriors dropped Beech Grove 80-59 in the sectional opener and turned around and beat Northwest for the very next day for the sectional title 77-65.
“This weekend were the two best games we’ve played all year from an offensive and defensive standpoint,” Barber said. “I think we had everybody step up all weekend and that’s what we’ve got to continue to do.”
Leading the way was the 1-2 scoring punch for Danville. Asher scored a career-high 39 points against Beech Grove on Friday and Motes scored a season-high 31 points against Northwest on Saturday.
“When your leaders are playing that way and playing with that urgency, it trickles down to everyone else,” Barber said.
The win against Northwest for the sectional title served as a confident booster for the Warriors because of the Space Pioneers’ athleticism.
“There is not a more athletic team in 3A than Northwest from top to bottom,” Barber said. “They are very talented and well coached. That’s a game to give our guys some confidence into the North Vernon game.”
Danville also has seven seniors who are not ready to end their seasons.
“I’m just very motivated,” Asher said. “After seeing us take down a team like Northwest, that just shows that the sky is the limit for this team. We are going to be a tough team to stop if we keep rolling like we are.”
Anticipation has been building for the Greencastle regional since the Warriors cut down the cuts at home Saturday evening. The excitement is overbearing for the players.
“More than words can describe,” Motes said. “It’s hard to go to school everyday with what’s in front of us and I’m just looking forward to Saturday.”
Asher has had trouble keeping focused in class and at home.
“Like today, I was just on the internet looking at Mount Vernon stats, looking at our stats comparing and everything,” he said. “At night, it’s hard for me to sleep because I just think about it. I get adrenaline going through me and butterflies, I can’t wait for it.”
The winner of Danville and Mount Vernon will play at 8 p.m. Saturday night against the winner of Edgewood (15-8) and Frankfort (20-4).
With five straight wins, the momentum of the sectional victory and growing confidence of seven seniors leading the way, the Warriors are as prepared as they can be for it’s matchup against the top ranked team in 3A.
“I like the attitude and where our team is right now,” Barber said. “I think we are really confident and guys have really gelled together and are supporting each other. Everybody has accepted their roles and we are going to go over there and give it the best effort we can give it.”