Veterans, younger players have Ads winning

January 27, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

MONTICELLO - In the typical high school hierarchy, most seniors have little use for freshmen, even less for those still in middle school.

But in this atypical season for the Danville girls, the seniors who are leading their reversal of fortune readily acknowledge that it wouldn't be possible without the help of the younger set.

Four seniors and a junior whom the seniors consider one of their own have piloted the Admirals into uncharted territory, including their first 12th Region All "A" Classic championship, but a group of their successors - led by two eighth-graders and a freshman - is helping to provide the power.

"The younger players are really helping us," senior Shatoniah Miller said. "It's good for us, because we can rely on them to help us."


That combination is taking Danville to the statewide All "A" Classic for the first time. The Admirals (11-3) will face 9th Region champion Covington Holy Cross (16-3) in a first-round game at 8 p.m. Feb. 4 at McBrayer Arena in Richmond.

The seniors believe they're entitled to some success after years of struggles.

"I would say we deserve it," senior Monica Vonderbrink said. "We've been playing together a real long time, and we get along with each other. It's almost like we should be rewarded for that."

On the other hand, they know they wouldn't be where they are without those key reserves.

"They all step up," Vonderbrink said. "They come in with a lot of heart and follow right in our footsteps."

The starting lineup consists of four seniors: Miller, Vonderbrink, Krystal Jackson and Amber Wood; and junior Renee Chiu.

"We have a very good class," Wood said. "I think we've always gotten along well. When I came in in the eighth grade, I wasn't accustomed to a team that's this close."

"We've been playing together since middle school, and this is something we've been striving for our whole lives," Jackson said. "This year we learned how to play as a team to put it together."

Some of the key pieces of the puzzle include eighth-graders Tasha Milby and Xerces Simpson and freshman Diamond Smith, who have come off the bench to provide more than the Admirals could have hoped for.

"Our younger players - the eighth-graders, freshmen and sophomores - have really been working hard in practice, and you see that improvement," Danville coach Justin Schommer said. "It's a nice complement to the juniors and seniors."

Young players came through in regional final

Their efforts were invaluable Saturday in Danville's win at Monticello in the regional final. Milby scored 10 points and was 2-for-5 from 3-point range, while Smith's three-point play in the fourth quarter broke a 43-all tie.

Milby said the rookies take their cues from the team's seniors.

"We definitely respect the senior and juniors," Milby said. "This is their last year, and we don't want to jump in and lose the game for them. We'll definitely take our open shots, but we look to them to lead us."

Together, the entire team is turning the page on the program's past.

"We haven't really been respected in the past," Wood said. "I think this year will help us gain a lot of respect."

The Admirals' last winning season was a 13-10 campaign in 1994-95 that was an aberration surrounded by seasons when their win total stayed in single digits.

"There's a new generation coming up," Miller said. "What happens in the past stays in the past."

This season started with a five-game winning streak, and their current streak is six in a row.

"We didn't really lose anybody last year, and when we started beating people early (this season), we knew we could compete," Vonderbrink added. "When we started out 5-0, we knew we had a lot of talent."

Maybe they just didn't know how much.

"We've got more options than maybe I thought we'd have at the beginning of the season," Schommer said. "We've had different people scoring key baskets for us. There's always been somebody who's been able to pick us up."

And anyone, young or old, who can do that is welcome at Danville this winter.

"In practice, it doesn't matter what your age or your grade is," Milby said. "If you're playing good, and you're playing good defense, you're going to get to play."

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