BOWLING GREEN, Ky.
Before this month, the Danville High School girls’ basketball program had never even won a regional tournament game. Now the Lady Admirals, fresh off claiming the whole 12th Region championship, also have a state tournament victory to their credit.
They got 15 points from freshman Alyvia Walker and 14 from senior Essence Grey to defeat Shelby Valley 52-48 on Wednesday afternoon in the first round of the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Sweet 16 at E.A. Diddle Arena.
“For us to have never won a regional game and now to be in the final eight, that shows what hard work does, and these ladies have really worked hard over the years,” coach Judie Mason said.
The Lady Admirals (25-7) will face Ashland Blazer (24-6) in Friday’s 1 p.m. EDT quarterfinal.
Though only a freshman, Walker has been on Danville’s varsity since sixth grade and is poised to take over the leadership role after the graduation of Grey, who is in her seventh varsity season. Grey made just 4 of 15 shots and had four turnovers, but the attention she drew freed up Walker to have a good day.
Walker made 4 of 5 shots and 7 of 10 free throws and had three steals.
“I challenged Alyvia when Essence’s shot wasn’t falling for her that this is (Walker’s) team next year, and she’s going to be in the spot that Essence is in,” Mason said. “She doesn’t really know how fortunate she is to have a player like Essence Grey. I told (Grey) I wouldn’t trade her for anybody in the state, even on a bad night.”
Shelby Valley coach Rodney Rowe said his team, which had won 14 straight games, had difficulty dealing with Danville’s quickness. The Lady Admirals forced 17 turnovers while committing just six and did well denying the Lady Kats’ first pass to start their half-court offense.
Shelby Valley (24-7), back-to-back champion of the 15th Region, was led by Taylor Rowe’s 15 points.
The Lady Kats rallied from nine down to tie the score at 38 in the third quarter. But Walker scored with a minute left to start a 6-0 run spanning the final periods, and Danville maintained the slim lead.
The victory continues a season of success for Danville, which was the All “A” Classic runner-up, then won its first district and regional crowns.
“It really feels unreal,” Grey said. “We’ve had great players in and out of Danville, and we as a team did it and were the first one? It’s just a really good feeling.”