BY CHAD DARE email@example.com
---- — LINCOLN – Chicago Harlan’s Brahium Johnson picked the perfect time for his only basket in Monday’s season opener against Danville.
Johnson’s 3-pointer from the right baseline with 21 seconds left in the game was the different as the Falcons defeated the Vikings 72-70 in an opening-round game of the Eaton Corporation Lincoln Holiday Tournament at the Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium.
Danville (0-1) had two opportunities to send the game into overtime, but Denzel Smith’s jumper with 12 seconds left was off the mark and the Vikings committed their 19th turnover in the final seconds.
“Anytime, we get into a situation like that, we want the ball in hands of Denzel Smith,’’ Danville coach Ted Houpt said. “On that final possession, we were just trying to get any kind of shot, trying to go the full length of the court in 4 seconds.’’
And while Danville didn’t make the play necessary to win the final seconds, it was the first three minutes of the fourth quarter that actually hurt the Vikings more than the final 30 seconds.
Harlan (1-0) went on a 12-4 run to start the final quarter which allowed the Falcons to build a 60-52 lead against the Vikings, who committed four turnovers and missed three straight shots on their first seven possessions of the period.
“We had one bad stretch,’’ Houpt said. “You can’t guard turnovers. It’s a double whammy because it takes away your opportunity to score and it gave them too many easy baskets.’’
Houpt, who didn’t consider this game a moral victory, did say he was pleased with the season opener.
“Other than that one bad stretch, I thought we played pretty well,’’ Houpt said. “Coming into the season, I wondered how we would handle quickness and pressure. We did a pretty good job, but there are still things that we need to get cleaned up.’’
Ball handling wasn’t the only issue in the season opener for Houpt.
Harlan outrebounded Danville 31-23 and the Falcons converted that advantage into 11 second-chance points to just six for the Vikings.
“We need to do a better job of boxing out,’’ Houpt said. “We can’t give up that many offensive rebounds.’’
In addition to Falcons’ advantage in rebounds, Harlan also made eight 3-pointers to just two for Danville.
“We’re playing a little different defense this season, we are trying to cover up the lane, so we are willing to give up a few 3-pointers,’’ Houpt said. “But, it seemed like they made a lot more than eight.’’
Harlan had a 1-2 punch scoring from the perimeter as Jaylin Clemons, who had four 3-pointers, scored 11 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, while Andre Hoban, who made three 3-pointers, had 12 of his 15 in the first half. The Falcons also got double digits from Hasson Potts and Devon Felton, as each played contributed 14. Felton also had a game-high 10 rebounds.
Danville countered with three players in double figures. Smith, a senior, scored a game-high 26 points, senior forward Jarhed Watson had 16 and guard Kylen Butler finished with 13. Those three were also 20-of-38 from the field as the Vikings shot 55.1 percent (27-of-49) from the field.
“Offensively, we did pretty much what we wanted to do,’’ Houpt said. “Scoring 70 points in a first game is a good way to start the season. Now, we just need to do a better job on the defensive end.’’
Houpt was also impressed in the way that his team battled back in the closing minutes.
Danville overcame a seven-point deficit (67-60) in the final two minutes, the Vikings took the lead twice (68-67 and 70-69) on baskets by Kemony Lester, who also had a pair of steals in the final minute.
“It was really good to see the way these guys battled after they got behind,’’ Houpt said. “The only way it would have been better was if we could have gotten the victory.’’
Lester was part of a trio of players that basically played the fifth spot in the Vikings lineup. That group of Lester, Anthony Thomas and Colin Bailey finished with nine points for Danville.
In the first game on Monday night, Cahokia defeated Morton 69-61, while Lincoln beat Champaign Centennial 49-40 in the final game of Monday. The Railers turned a 38-31 deficit into a 49-38 advantage with a 18-0 run in the third and fourth quarters.
Danville will host Champaign Centennial on Wednesday night in a game that is both part of the Lincoln Holiday Tournament and the opening game of the Big 12 Conference season for both teams. The junior varsity game will tip off a 6 p.m. with the varsity contest tentatively set for 7:30 p.m.
In Lincoln on Wednesday, Cahokia will play Harlan in a 6 p.m. contest with Lincoln taking on Morton in the 7:30 p.m. game.
Danville will return to Lincoln on Friday where the Vikings will play Cahokia in a 6:30 p.m. contest.