Danville squeezes by West in 12th Region quarterfinals

Published 6:14 pm Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Dalton Bruner put in a heroic effort Monday in the 12th Region quarterfinals.

But it wasn’t enough to stop Danville in the opening round at Lincoln County, as West Jessamine fell 57-54 in its final game of the season.

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Bruner posted a game-high 27 points and led the Colts with nine rebounds, seven assists and five steals.

Bruner kept Danville’s offense on its toes and defense off-balance throughout the game. His activity on the defensive side of the ball prevented what Danville wanted to do early on: Get the ball down low.

“We just couldn’t hit a shot early,” Danville head coach Ed McKinney said. “We wanted to try to throw it inside but with Bruner, he’s just doubling the post from everywhere. He’s so active defensively, if you throw it in there and you don’t make a quick post move, he’s going to get it.”

The game was back-and-forth for the entire 32 minutes — there were 10 lead changes and 13 ties. West Jessamine held the lead at the end of every quarter but the fourth.

“I believed coming into the season that Danville was the team to beat in the region, based on what they had coming back from last year,” West head coach Damon Kelley said. “I think they proved that all season long. At the same time, we were looking forward to playing tonight. I feel like we matched up well with them. My biggest concern was if we could keep them off of the offensive glass. I thought we did a really good job of that tonight.”

The Colts went toe-to-toe with the Admirals (28-5), and it came down to the final minute of action.

Danville opened the fourth quarter on a 13-2 run to take its largest lead of the game, 52-47, with three minutes remaining.

Bruner kept things interesting. After cutting the Admirals’ lead to three, Bruner made a steal and finished at the other end to cut the lead to one.

The Admirals would make the front end of one-and-one opportunities: First by Darrian Bell, then by Trey Dawson, to take a 54-51 lead with under a minute to play.

Bruner would hit a deep three to tie the game with 17.6 seconds to play.

“He plays so hard. I love the kid,” Kelley said of his star senior. “He’s been through so much. There’s never a question when it comes to his effort on the basketball court. He gives you everything he has. He does a lot of things out there that you can’t coach. That makes him hard to coach sometimes, but his heart and his head is always in the right spot. He’s a winner. He’s going to make the big play when you need him to make it. He had some huge steals tonight, he had the three to tie it late.”

Danville would take the lead on a layup by Zach Thornton late, and West’s final shot attempt would fall short. Thornton added a free throw to give the Admirals a 57-54 win.

The 54 points were the lowest total for the Colts in a game since Feb. 5, in the middle of a 1-6 stretch where Kelley said he challenged his “flatlining” team.

“My guys never quit,” he said. “I told them that three weeks ago, we were flatlining as a basketball team. I didn’t know what we had left in us. We bounced back. I really liked our chances coming into tonight. You’re in a tie ballgame inside the last 30 seconds, you’ve got two pretty evenly matched teams. Credit them for making the basket to take the lead. We still had a shot, it just wasn’t our night tonight.”

The Colts won the 46th District for the first time since 2014 this season, something that didn’t look likely with two district losses to Mercer County and East Jessamine during that 1-6 stretch.

And that, Kelley said, is a credit to his team.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” he said. “To be where we were a couple of weeks ago, people on the outside, they see the final scores of games and they make decisions and determinations about your team. They have no idea what some of these guys have been dealing with off of the court. For us to be able to overcome all of that, put it together and make a run like we did, that’s a locker room full of guys who love each other and care for each other. They’re hurting right now but they’ve got nothing to be ashamed of tonight.”