MINFORD — The saying ‘We’re going to Disney World!’ is usually a term, and a trip, that is reserved for special occasions.
However, on Monday evening, the Minford Falcons’ girls basketball program didn’t need to go to the Orlando, Fla. metro area in order to feel the magic — because Erin Daniels and the remainder of Scott Caudill’s group created their own magical setting in a nonconference bout against the Jackson Ironladies on the campus of Minford High School.
Daniels, who sat just seven points away from breaking Cheryl Preston-Bolender’s all-time mark of 1,379 points inside the Minford girls basketball umbrella entering Monday’s contest, wasted no time obliterating the mark as the senior’s three-pointer with 2:16 remaining in the first quarter put the Ashland University signee over a bar that had stood for 35 years.
The senior, however, was more concerned with another statistic — 16-0.
That win-loss record, which the Lady Falcons obtained with a 62-13 victory over Jackson, tied the best-ever start to a season in the history of the girls basketball program as Daniels’ 23 points proved to be right at the heart of Minford’s latest triumph — a triumph that Caudill says is a team and community-wide effort through and through.
“The effort was tremendous tonight,” Caudill said. “The girls played their hearts out. It’s a really special night for all of our kids, but the girls are just really happy for Erin and her accomplishments. They were all just as happy for her as anyone, and that’s what makes our team special.”
And as cerebral as Daniels is, she couldn’t deny how excited she was about setting the program’s all-time mark in points scored for a career.
“It feels pretty good,” Daniels said. “I try not to think about it throughout the year. (On Monday), I was trying not to be nervous. Thankfully, I came out, made a couple of shots, and my nerves kind of settled down. It’s a pretty good feeling to be in the record books. I’m excited.”
From the outset, Daniels proved to be outstanding as the senior not only scored more than her fair share of points, but did so at a high rate and within the confines of the offense. The All-State guard immediately drove the baseline and passed the ball to Ashley Blankenship, who, in turn, unselfishly found Daniels on the opposite side of the baseline for a 15-foot jumper that immediately put the Lady Falcons ahead to stay and got the senior in a major groove offensively. In fact, Daniels ultimately scored five of Minford’s first seven points to pull within two points from the mark just three minutes into the contest.
As Minford continued to extend the lead and make the contest a mere formality early on, the focus turned to Daniels, who sat just one basket shy of eclipsing the long-awaited plateau.
With 2:16 to play in the opening quarter, Daniels — who could’ve possibly taken the ball in for a layup, decided to pull the ball out and gun a three.
“My assistant coach, Shane Davis, was saying, ‘Erin, you have to hit a three-pointer here. You can’t just go down for a layup,’” Daniels said. “I had a chance to drive inside and go for the layup, but I pulled it out and just thought, ‘I’m going to take this three.’”
And just like last year — when the all-around talent hit a similar basket to go over the 1,000-point plateau — Daniels drained it. The shot put Daniels at 1,381 points for her career, and the night had just begun.
“As soon as it left my hand, I was like, ‘That’s money,’” Daniels said. “I knew it was going in. I was just thinking, ‘Thank the Lord.’ I felt good after that. I felt relieved.”
“I went numb,” Caudill said of his reaction. “I’m just happy for her. She’s been traveling all over the country, working, since she was a little girl in order to develop her game, and that’s really what we want as far as building our culture here is concerned. She’s really spearheaded this culture for us. She’s definitely got God-given talent, but that talent is only potential if you don’t use it. She’s used it, and she’s used it for the betterment of her development.”
With the feat out of the way and Minford well in control of the contest, the attention turned to the Lady Falcons’ defensive efforts and its amazing performance in its 1-3-1 zone defense.
Jackson’s Mariah Ridgeway nailed a long two-point field goal from the left wing with 4:16 to play in the opening quarter, but from there forward, the Ironladies were held scoreless for 17 full minutes of action as the Lady Falcons, behind 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from Daniels and five treys in all, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Zoe Doll that hit off of the glass, took a commanding 36-2 advantage at the halftime break. The lead ultimately swelled to 39-2 in the third quarter before Jackson, with 3:13 to play in the third quarter, finally ended its long scoring drought by hitting the back end of two free throw attempts.
“We’re really blessed with a lot of length, and that’s why we run a lot of 1-3-1,” Caudill said. “I’m not really a fan of a 1-3-1 defense, but it’s been one of our pinnacle defenses, and a lot of that has to do with our length. We’ve got players who are really smart at making those defensive reads on the backside, too, and it really makes it difficult on some of these teams. We end up getting a bunch of steals out of it.”
Still, Daniels and her teammates knew that they could play in a better manner than the one displayed on Monday evening.
“Even though we held Jackson to two points (in the first half), we still weren’t satisfied with how we were playing,” Daniels said. “I don’t think we’ll ever be satisfied with how we’re playing, and there are still little things that we need to correct, but I’m really proud of the girls because they came out and played their game.”
And even with mass substitutions occurring throughout most of the second half, Minford continued to add to its lead. Ultimately, the Lady Falcons were ultimately able to grow its second-half lead to as much as 62-8 behind the play of their primary option, who added her final eight tallies in the second half as the Lady Falcons cruised to the record-tying victory.
However, if one expects Caudill, Daniels, or the rest of the unit to get too caught up in the historic numbers that were set on a magicial Monday in January, don’t hold your breath.
“We talked about that in the locker room,” Caudill said. “We know that the community’s here, and they want to see the all-time scoring record being broke. However, we said in the locker room that we weren’t doing anything different. Erin knew that, and that, actually, was Erin’s only request, to not change a thing. We’re not trying to go to Erin more and we’re not trying to do anything different than what we typically do. Our main goal is to come out here as a team, get better, and get a win.”
“It feels amazing,” Daniels said of the community support. “Everyone’s like, ‘You’re 16-0!’ We’re saying, ‘So?’ We don’t think about it, honestly. It’s not that big of a topic in practice or anything like that. We just know that our main goal is to go far in the tournament. That’s what we’re working for. We’ve worked for that all summer long, all season, day-in and day-out, and it’s finally paying off. Hopefully, we can make a good run in the tournament.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT