Tom Batters
Danielle DesJardins

Richwoods point guard Danielle DesJardins only scored three points in a win against Woodruff Thursday, but her impact on the game was significant.

DesJardins, the senior who is known as “DJ” to her coach John Gross, had five assists in the first 10 minutes. She handled the ball flawlessly against a tenacious Woodruff defense.

Richwoods guard Mariah Smith had 26 points in that game. After Smith converted an easy layup, I heard one frustrated Woodruff fan mutter, “she was wide open.”

Actually, Smith was only open for a split second. DesJardins made a perfect pass from the top of the key and hit Smith in stride, so it appeared that she was unguarded in the post.

DesJardins made several precision passes to Smith throughout the game. She dribbled the ball up the court, read where Smith was going to “cut” toward the basket, and repeatedly hit her with perfect passes that led to easy layups.

Many of her passes were on the run when she only had a second to think. Others were crafty “no-look” passes that froze Woodruff defenders, who didn’t realize the pass had been made until it was too late.

DesJardins also made a few nifty bounce passes to post players Katie Murphy and Maddie Nieukirk for high-percentage shots.

“DJ” helps the team in so many ways.

Gross calls her “a natural leader.”

She acts like an extra coach on the floor, and there is no question that she is the leader of this team.

Late in the game Thursday (Richwoods was cruising to a blowout win), when the Woodruff defense double-teamed her at midcourt, DesJardins called timeout and scolded one of her teammates who had failed to come back toward the ball to help break the press.

After a teammate missed two free throws, she patted her on the back and said, “Come on. It’s alright.”

She even talks like a coach during postgame interviews.

After the Lady Knights dismantled Woodruff by 20 points, Gross and DesJardins sounded alike.

Gross: “We’re showing flashes of what we can do, but we haven’t played a complete game yet. We need to get better.”

DesJardins: “We’re getting better as a team, but we’re still a bit shaky. It’s nice to get the win, but we have to play a lot better.”

The most impressive part of DesJardins’ game, though, is the way she hustles on every play.

Even before the game starts, she looks “dialed in,” and ready to give it all she’s got.

In their pre-game warm-ups, the Lady Knights start at the baseline and run sideways to halfcourt with their arms out to simulate playing defense.

Most of the players run through this exercise with adequate effort.

DesJardins runs it like it is an Olympic event.

She sprints through the drill with a determined look on her face, as if to tell the opposing players on the other side of halfcourt, “I’m ready to play.”

During the game, she dives on the floor for loose balls, and comes up with big steals on defense. When she is not dishing put passes, she has a smooth outside shot of her own.

In a win against Morton earlier this season, she nailed back-to-back three-pointers to ignite a 10-2 run.

DesJardins said she takes her role as the team leader seriously, but she modestly downplayed her importance.

“I just try to get us playing as a team,” she said. “We have a lot of good players on this team. We all have to do our part.”

Richwoods notes

• The Lady Knights beat Peoria Notre Dame, 64-25, last week.

Nieukirk scored 11 points in the third quarter and finished the game with 14 points. Murphy had 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots.

“When we keep Maddie (Nieukirk) and Katie (Murphy) out of foul trouble, we’re a much better team,” Gross said. “We played well, for one night, at least. Now, we have to match the intensity that Central had against us (in a 46-37 home loss Dec. 2).”

• Richwoods beat Moline, 50-42, and Byron, 60-25, Saturday at the Sterling Shootout. Richwoods will play Freeport Saturday. Freeport is one of only two teams to beat the Lady Knights this season.

• No team has scored more than 49 points in a game against the Lady Knights (10-2) so far this season.

Dunlap at 8-2

• Dunlap fell to 8-2 (1-2 in the Mid-Illini Conference) after a 50-48 loss to Metamora Friday night.

Jenni Erlandson, who was six-for-nine from the field, led the Lady Eagles with 17 points. Ally Redington led Dunlap with eight rebounds.

ND loses, 53-45

• Peoria Notre Dame lost to Normal Community, 53-45, Thursday.

Amy Carlson scored 14 points for Notre Dame. Elle Bielfeldt had 12 points.