Hart, who had 29 points, couldn't miss early in the game while draining three straight 3-pointers as the Patriots (8-6, 3-0 in 45th District) raced to a quick 16-0 advantage. Danville's first points came on a free throw from Phillip Dunn and Chad Bartleson's field goal at the 1:32 mark was their first of the game as the Admirals (2-9, 0-1) trailed 20-5 after one period.
"We wanted to keep the ball out of the middle and out of True's hands, but we picked the wrong night to open the game in a zone," Danville coach Craig Pippen said. "They just shot the lights out in the first quarter. You have to give up something against them, and Hart had an outstanding shooting night. To our credit, though, we kept chipping away at the lead and never gave up."
Danville caused Lincoln to turn the ball over five times during the second period and got nine points from Ronnie Hawkins, his only points of the game, to keep the Patriots' lead at a standstill. Lincoln led 34-20 at the half despite hitting 13 of 23 shots from the field for 57 percent.
Admirals get back into the game
Chad Bartleson nailed three treys and Dunn added seven points as Danville trimmed the Patriots' once-comfortable margin to only one point at 40-39 with 2:34 to play in the third quarter. Lincoln once again helped the cause by commiting six turnovers during the frame and the Ads took advantage of two quick fouls on True that sent him to the bench with 7:19 to play in the period.
"If Chad starts hitting his shots and Phillip starts penetrating the lane and plays his role, we are a better basketball team," Pippen said. "And I thought Darius (Baughman) played fantastic in the third quarter. For the first time all year I thought he stepped up his game. His potential is endless."
"They started hitting their shots and their defense started to pick up its intensity and forced us to do things we don't normally do," Jackson said. "We started playing too fast and didn't make good decisions with the basketball at times. Having 20 turnovers is too many, and a lot of those were unforced. Once we settled down and got into our offense, we started playing better."
The game turned into an old-fashioned shootout beginning late in the third period. After Danville trimmed the lead to one, Hart, who was 9-for-14 from beyond the 3-point arc, scored 15 straight points that turned the one-point lead into a 52-39 advantage.
"After I hit three or four shots I started feeling good about my shots, and my teammates started setting real good screens to get me good looks," Hart said. "One I got on the roll, the coaches started calling plays to get me shots. I've been in a slump lately, and I was due to have a good game."
Bartleson, who hit all five of his 3-point attempts, drained two more and Ben Carter scored following a rebound as Danville cut the lead to 56-47, but the Ads could get no closer.
Lincoln had its best shooting game of the season, canning 24 of 44 tries for 55 percent while Danville, after a miserable start where it hit just two of 14 tries in the first period, finished the game 18 of 58 for 31 percent.
True grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked eight shots as the Patriots won the rebounding battle 39-29. Hawkins and Baughman grabbed six missed shots each for Danville. The Ads committed 20 turnovers.