DANVILLE — Having made it to the State Tournament three of the past four years as a high school player, helping Shelby Valley win the title last March, Ashley Hatfield knows about big-game pressure and playing in front of thousands of fans.
Now a college freshman, Hatfield totaled 15 points and six rebounds to lead Transylvania to a 56-51 victory over Division III rival Centre.
"That was solid," Coach Brian Lane said. "I may talk to him about his (four) turnovers. But it will be after I talk to him about how well he did scoring and rebounding."
The fans in Alumni Memorial Gymnasium numbered 735, but they were no less enthusiastic than those who saw Hatfield play in Rupp Arena.
"It's a big rivalry," he said. "I saw that as soon as I walked in the gym."
The "Puppy Pioneers," as Lane calls his team that starts two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, also got 13 points from Brandon Rash and 11 from Chris Owens. Ethan Spurlin came off the bench to lead Transy (1-1) with seven rebounds.
Centre (3-1) was led by Josh Crawford, who shot 11-for-12 from the free-throw line and finished with 15 points. Greg Ross snared 13 rebounds and scored eight points.
Before the season, Lane talked about how he wanted to hold opponents to 42 percent-or-so from the field. Well, the Pioneers limited Centre to 17-for-53 (32.1 percent).
"That was the best defensive effort we've had in a while," Lane said. "Actually, in a long, long time."
At the half, the Colonels were 6-for-24 (25 percent).
"We talk defense, we talk rebounding," Coach Greg Mason said. "But if you don't reward yourself offensively, then it's all for naught."
Centre used a 13-2 run to take a 16-12 lead. Crawford accounted for four during the rally, all from the line. Donovan Whiteside added a three-pointer and three other Colonels added a bucket each.
The lead was 19-17 when Hatfield came up with a lead-changing three-pointer with 2:50 left in the half.
Centre came within a point early in the second half, but the Pioneers built a 40-29 edge with 12:00 left.
Jeff Mullaney's driving basket in the lane brought Centre to within 42-36.
Hatfield had the answer, knocking in a three-pointer from the corner.
"Coach told us not to hesitate when you get the open shot," Hatfield said. "Especially when they're coming back like that. We had to get some points on the board and we had to get some stops."
Hatfield finished 6-for-9 from the floor, 3-for-3 from three-point range.
The closest the Colonels came after that was 46-42 on a Mullaney basket at 1:50.
Hatfield came right back with a 13-footer, and the Pioneers scored their last eight points at the free-throw line.
"Inside of eight minutes, we were shooting 22 percent from the floor, and that's just not a basketball game doing that," Mason said. "Both teams played really hard. Just one of those where we couldn't hit a shot to save our lives."