NORMAL — The thing that typically separates really good players from exceptional players is what happens in the postseason.
Players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James are known for getting the job done when the games have meant the most.
On Tuesday night, Danville High senior forward Denzel Smith rose to the occasion in the IHSA Class 4A regional semifinal against Bradley-Bourbonnais.
Smith scored a game-high 33 points, including 22 in the second half, to lead the Vikings to an 63-49 upset victory over the top-seeded Boilermakers at Normal Community High School.
“I think this elevates his status and his legacy at Danville High,’’ said Danville coach Ted Houpt. “You do great things and you lead your team to victories in the postseason — that’s a whole another type of greatness and that’s what he has been doing for us.’’
In the Vikings two regional victories, including a 63-55 win over Normal West on Monday, Smith has scored 60 points, pulled down 18 rebounds, dished out four assists, recorded four steals and the senior is 16-of-16 at the free-throw line.
“Knocking down free throws and rebounding — that’s winning basketball,’’ Houpt said. “That’s the big reason why we are closing out victories here in the postseason.’’
And when the Vikings needed their star player to pick up his play on Tuesday night, Smith responded.
After a good first half with 11 points and seven rebounds, the 6-foot-7 forward didn’t miss a shot in the second half. He was 7-of-7 from the field and 7-of-7 at the free-throw line in the final two quarters.
“In the first half, I came out with a little negative energy,’’ Smith admitted. “At halftime, the coaches pulled me to the side, and told me that if I kept good positive energy that we would win. I took that challenge and make a positive out of it.