For the second year in a row, the Lincoln County boys have knocked Danville out of district contention.
The Patriots survived a low-scoring slugfest with the rival Admirals, defeating Danville 49-36 Wednesday in a 45th District Tournament semifinal at Rebel Arena.
After trailing for most of the first half, Lincoln (15-16) surged offensively late in the second quarter, rolling off seven straight points before the break to take a 20-14 lead. The Patriots never trailed again, leading by as many as nine points in the second half.
Danville (10-15) did trim the Lincoln lead to 41-36 with just 2 minutes, 32 seconds to play, only to have the Patriots put the game away with an 8-for-10 run at the foul line.
“I’m real proud of the effort our kids gave,” Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson said. “We needed 32 minutes of focus, and I thought we had 32 minutes of focus. We missed a couple shots, a couple layups, but we didn’t drop our head on the other end. We went down and defended and did some good things.”
“It was a good defensive game. It was a good win. It means we get to play at home again (in next week’s 12th Region Tournament at Lincoln) and it means we get to play with our girls team for a district title Friday night.”
No. 3 seed Lincoln held second-seeded Danville to 34 percent (14 for 41) shooting from the field, giving up only one 3-point basket, and the Admirals were just 7 for 13 at the free-throw line.
The Patriots were only slightly better from the field at 37 percent (15 for 41), but they boosted their point total by going 5 for 19 from 3-point range and 14 for 21 at the foul line.
Danville coach Andrew Zaheri said he wasn’t surprised at the way Lincoln attacked defensively.
“Me and the coaches had talked about it, and we thought that Lincoln County may throw a zone at us. And that’s what they did,” he said. “Most of the year we’ve seen them go man-to-man and they didn’t do the zone. I probably just didn’t do a good enough job going over our zone offenses. Earlier this year we went through a span where we played about four or five teams and that’s all we saw, so we took it for granted.”
Danville pulled ahead of Lincoln 5-0 early, with Christian Gateskill-Fuqua, who led all scorers with 15 points, knocking down the first two buckets of the game, including a 3-pointer.
Lincoln made up for its slow start by answering Gateskill-Fuqua’s run with its own run — a string of six straight points. Luke Hill, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Patriots, scored inside to get them started, and Brandon Pittman followed with one free throw before B.J. Hoover aired out a trey to give Lincoln its first lead at 6-5.
Damir Karapandzic converted on a 3-point play to nudge Danville back on top, but Hill answered before the buzzer to tie the game at 8-all after the first quarter.
Neither team’s offense got off to a strong start, with Lincoln going 3 for 14 and Danville going 3-for-13 in the first quarter, both with one 3-point goal.
Alex Burnside, who finished with 10 points for Danville, broke the tie with a putback to start the second quarter. Burnside scored six of his total points in the second to help Danville maintain its lead for most of the period. But again, poor shooting would plague the Admirals. They made just two of 13 field goal attempts in the period, with a 2-for-4 effort at the foul line.
Lincoln started the second quarter cold, going 2 for 6 from the field, and trailed 14-13 with just 2:45 left in the first half, but the Patriots would turn things around before the break.
After being fouled by Burnside, Hill stepped to the line and sank two free throws, Neil Conley followed with a 3-pointer, and then, with just four ticks left on the clock, Hoover capped the half by fielding a long pass from Timmy Taylor and laying it in.
“We wanted to attack the zone tonight,” Jackson said. “I thought we moved the ball a little better and Timmy (Taylor) was able to, once we swung it around a couple times and they got a little spread, he was able to get in the lane and hit some people for some good shots. We wanted to have good shot selection and not force anything. I thought our guys did a good job moving the ball and we were aggressive. Our shot selection was better tonight than it’s been in a long time.”
Lincoln extended its 7-0 run just before the half into a 12-2 surge, with Hill putting up a jumper and Hoover draining a 3-pointer early in the third quarter to make it 25-16.
Danville got within five twice in the third quarter off buckets by Gateskill-Fuqua and Karapandzic, but Jacob Conway, who had 10 second-half points, answered the Gateskill-Fuqua shot with a jumper, and Conley hit his second 3-pointer of the night after Karapandzic scored.
Conley collected his third and final trey just before time expired in the third to push Lincoln’s lead back to nine at 35-26.
Jawan Grey drove the baseline for a basket with 2:32 left in the game to get Danville back within 41-36, but the Admirals never could get any closer.
“Coach Jackson had a great game plan,” Zaheri said. “We kept hearing him over and over again saying, ‘Tighten it up! Tighten it up!’ He just cut off our gaps. And I think we got a little lethargic tonight. When we can’t get the ball to the rim, we’re not nearly as effective as a team as we can be.”
Jackson knew cutting Danville’s offense off would not be an easy task.
“They are so long and athletic, but we defended pretty well and we limited them to one shot most of the time,” he said. “Our kids battled them on the boards. They did a good job rebounding the basketball, and you have to do that if you want to win at this time of the year.”
The Patriots secured the win at the line. Taylor went 3 for 4 in the final 1:56, Pittman went 1 for 2 and Conway went 4 for 4 to advance Lincoln to Friday’s championship game against host Boyle County.
Danville outrebounded Lincoln 31-27, led by Burnside with nine rebounds. Wooldridge had eight boards and Gateskill-Fuqua had seven. Hill led Lincoln with 11 boards, and Conway had seven.
45th District Tournament
At Boyle County / Semifinal
Lincoln County 8 20 35 49
Danville 8 14 26 36
LINCOLN (15-16) — Timmy Taylor 7, B.J. Hoover 8, Brandon Pittman 5, Neil Conley 9, Jacob Conway 10, Luke Hill 10.
DANVILLE (18-10) — Jawan Grey 2, Christian Gateskill-Fuqua 15, Cody Wooldridge 3, Jakobi Turner 1, Damir Karapandzic 5, Alex Burnside 10.