There was a time when people would travel to the Boys and Girls Club to watch Crystal Dangerfield play against the boys.
She was 7 or 8 at the time, but even then the current Blackman sophomore standout point guard brought a crowd to watch her play.
Dangerfield and her Lady Blaze teammates will play in front of an even bigger crowd today when top-ranked Blackman vies for the school’s first state championship.
“It taught me how to play with a tough mentality, and it got me better,” said Dangerfield, who also played in an older age group against better competition. “It was pretty much all boys. If a girl wanted to play they could, but you were put on a boys team.
“If you were good enough to play, you’d play.”
Dangerfield, a 5-foot-5 athlete, used that mental toughness Friday in the Lady Blaze’s 55-46 win over Mt. Juliet in a Class AAA semifinal of the BlueCross Girls Basketball State Championships. Dangerfield scored a game-high 22 points on 8-of-16 from the field. She also hit 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. She had three assists and three rebounds, and didn’t have a turnover.
Blackman (33-1) plays Memphis Ridgeway (30-3) at 2 p.m. today at MTSU in the Class AAA state championship game.
Blackman coach Chad Hibdon said Dangerfield’s performance on the court came in the flow of the game. She didn’t go out of the team’s gameplan.
“When they really guard us, and then we got it back to her, that’s when she was special,” Hibdon said. “She understands big moments, and how to make those big plays.”
Dangerfield’s play included a crucial four-point play after she stole the ball and was intentionally fouled with 2:12 left and Blackman hanging on to a 41-36 lead.
Dangerfield buried both free throws and then hit a short jumper six seconds later to push the lead to nine and essentially put the game out of reach.
The only area Dangerfield struggled was from the 3-point line, where she was 0-of-5. She is 1-of-8 from the 3-point line for the tournament. She shot 30 percent from the 3-point line prior to the state tournament.
Dangerfield said part of the struggles from the perimeter was because at times she’s mistakenly been using the college 3-point line at Murphy Center, which is at 20-feet-9, instead of the line placed for the high school state tournament at 19-9.
“It’s that 3-point line — I keep shooting at the college 3-point line,” Dangerfield said. “(Coach) told me to look down because I was shooting from too far. I was two feet from behind the college line.”