PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Vikings succumb to stage fright, Wildcats

Feb. 2—DANVILLE — Everything was there Thursday night for the Danville girls basketball team.

There were balloons, cupcakes, a live DJ and the biggest crowd of the season.

It was both a senior night festivity for Keysha Landfair, Jyah Parker and Sophie Foley and the kickoff to Black Heritage Month at Danville High School.

The only thing missing — a win for the Lady Vikings.

Normal West spoiled the celebrations with a 52-33 triumph over Danville in a Big 12 Conference contest at Danville High School.

"Unfortunately, I think our kids showed, at times, that they were afraid of the moment. Our chemistry just wasn't really there," said coach Glennie Watson. "We played well at times, but when you play in the tough Big 12 Conference, you have to play 32 minutes, you have to play four quarters. The teams that we compete against, they play at a high level and they play a full four quarters."

It's understandable that the Vikings struggled in a unusual atmosphere as eight of their 12 players are either freshmen or sophomores.

"We had a big crowd, the fanfare was there," Watson said. "If they want to play at the next level, they have to get accustomed to this, because that is what you have to deal with on a regular basis. You can't be afraid of the moment. You have to fight through adversity ... your body language can't go a different direction, you can't drop your head. You have to continue to make quality basketball players.

"I think we were just too caught up in the great crowd. We want a great crowd. We want all of the support. But, you still have to play the game the right way with a big crowd. I tell them all of the time, I will place you on the stage, but you have to perform. People don't want to watch me coach, they come to see you play."

Normal West (8-18 overall, 4-5 in the Big 12) established control of the game from the opening tip, taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter with a 13-3 advantage.

The Wildcats extended that lead to 17-3 early in the second quarter but the Vikings responded with six straight points to pull within 17-9 on Danville's second made field goal with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left in the half.

"We couldn't throw the ball in the ocean if we were standing on the beach," Watson said. "We got the ball in the right places, at times, but we also had a couple of travels and a couple of bad turnovers."

Making matters worse for Danville (10-16 overall, 3-5 in the Big 12) was the fact that the Vikings were just 8-of-22 at the free-throw line.

"Free throws were atrocious," Watson said. "We missed 14 of the in the game. If you add those to our score, it changes the dynamic of this game."

Still, Danville found a way to pull within 7 points (36-29) on a basket by Parker with 7 minutes, 28 seconds remaining as Amara McFarland and Anna Houpt combined for 13 points in the third quarter.

But that was as close as the Vikings would get. The Wildcats scored 10 straight points to secure a double-digit lead and the victory.

"This was very disappointing," Watson said. "I anticipated us playing better than we did."

Danville, which had won three of its last four, was looking for its 11th win on Thursday after winning just four games in the past two seasons combined.

Things don't get any easier for the Vikings as their final two regular-season games are against Peoria Richwoods, who is 18-9 this year and receiving votes in the Class 3A AP Poll, and then its Normal Community, who is 25-3 and ranked No. 6 in Class 4A.

"We have to find a way to adjust and compete against those really talented teams," Watson said.

Box Score Normal West 52, Danville 33

Normal West (52) — Hope Ferrill 0 0-0 0, Dajeana Smith 2 0-0 6, Annabelle Kuchler 0 0-0 0, Journey Johnson 2 0-0 4, Hayley Upton 3 0-3 6, Avery Dodge 5 4-4 16, Rylee Cusick 0 2-2 2, Meredith Bertsche 0 1-2 1, Olivia Patton 5 2-2 15, Payton Harmon 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 9-13 52.

Danville (33) — Anna Houpt 1 2-4 5, Adrienna Burns 1 0-2 2, Ashanti Conaway 0 0-2 0, Amara McFarland 3 1-2 9, Gabi Huerta 4 0-0 8, Dasani Lewis 0 0-0 0, Lindsay Porter 0 0-0 0, Jyah Parker 2 0-0 4, Jada Bell 0 4-10 4, Jalorrian Stewart 0 1-2 1, Sophie Foley 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 8-22 33.

Normal West 13 13 10 16 — 52

Danville 3 8 16 6 — 33

3-pointers — Normal West 7 (Patton 3, Smith 2, Dodge 2). Danville 3 (McFarland 2, Houpt 1). Total fouls — Normal West 22, Danville 18. Fouled out — Upton. Technical foul — Upton.

Records — Normal West 8-18 overall, 4-5 in the Big 12 Conference. Danville 10-16 overall, 3-5 in the Big 12.

JV Score — Normal West 43, Danville 31.