HANCEVILLE — With under three minutes left in the Northwest Regional Class 3A girls semifinal, Paul Wilson pulled his Danville players to the sideline.
Centered in the middle of the girls basketball players, he put his hands together and urged them to keep going, the echoes of his voice carrying across the floor.
As seconds ticked away, there were no surprises, no upsets, no shake ups, as the Hawks finished their season with the 46-26 loss to Madison Academy. With the win, the Mustangs advance to play Lauderdale County at 3:40 p.m. Saturday.
For Danville (26-9), the team young and small, it will be filed as a learning experience. With a starting lineup that includes an eighth-grader and no seniors, all of the Hawk players stepped onto the court at Tom Drake Coliseum as newcomers to the regional tournament.
“If I could liken it to something, it was kind of like studying real hard for Bible drills and you walked in and saw that Jesus was your opponent,” Hawks coach Paul Wilson said.
Magnificent or not, Madison Academy (26-8) had the size advantage and used man-to-man pressure to keep Danville scoreless through 12 minutes of play, opening on an 18-0 scoring run. Shots bounced off, rolled around and missed the mark completely as the Hawks totaled an 18.9 shooting percentage for the game.
“It was really hard, shooting so many times and it not going it,” said Sydni Shelton, the team’s 6-foot forward, the only player with size.
Jesse Oliver scored the first basket for Danville.
“I had almost every shot blocked, and then that one went in,”
Oliver said, relieved that she finally scored.
Sierra Jones led the Mustangs with 14 points, while Libba Gillam scored 10 and Lauren Hargett added eight. Gracie George, who regularly advances the Hawks from the 3-point mark, was limited to two shots from outside the circle.
Shelton led Danville with nine points and six rebounds. Tara Tuck, the speedy point guard, added five points.
Charlee Anderson left the game at halftime with what appeared to be a dislocated knee. Three and a half minutes into the third quarter, Tabetha Hutto went down near the baseline — in the same spot where R. A. Hubbard’s Tony Harris went down Wednesday night — with a knee injury. Anderson contributed one rebound in the game, while Hutto grabbed three.
Despite the loss, Wilson said the team is encouraged in its first regional appearance since 2011, when the Hawks won the regional title.
“We’ve got bright days ahead,” he said. “They’re not going to quit and they’re going to work.”
Meredith Qualls can be reached at 256-340-2395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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