DANVILLE — Fast starts and successful 3-point shooting has been the keys to the Danville boys basketball success in the past week.
On Friday night, those were the keys once again, but this time around, it was the Normal Community Ironmen, who started quick, hit 3s and they also ended the game with a 12-2 run.
All of those factors added up to a Normal Community 63-52 win over Danville High in a Big 12 Conference contest on Friday night.
“I guess you could say that we live and die by the 3,’’ said Danville senior guard Kylen Butler. “We needed to find other ways to score, and we did, but it wasn’t enough.’’
The Ironmen (14-6 overall, 6-3 in the Big 12) were an amazing 7-of-12 behind the 3-point arc in the first half as they built a 34-26 halftime lead. Normal Community, which was 9-of-20 behind the arc in the contest, had five different players hit a 3-pointer on Friday night.
“That was the difference,’’ Danville coach Ted Houpt said. “We had shot it well in our last two games.
“Obviously, everyone is much better when you are knocking down the 3-pointers. The impressive part to me was that it was more than one or two guys.’’
The Ironmen’s biggest 3-pointer came with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left as Zach Thompson gave them a 58-52 lead. Normal Community would make 5-of-6 free throws in the final 1:08 to seal the victory.
Just a few minutes earlier, Danville had pulled within 51-50 on a pair of free throws by Butler, who had 16 points in the contest. Houpt called a timeout and the Ironmen proceeded to scored 12 of the game’s final 14 points.
“It looked like a momentum stopper,’’ Houpt said. “But, I could see that our guys were tired and they needed some rest. They knocked down a couple of shots, we throw the ball away twice and they get another 3-pointer — just like that, they had their cushion back.
“I take the blame for that. I didn’t do a good job of getting us back focused after the timeout.’’
The Vikings, who fall to 6-12 overall, 4-7 in the Big 12, overcame the 8-point halftime deficit by getting to the free-throw line.
Danville was 11-of-14 at the charity stripe in the second half, while Normal Community was just 8-of-12 for the game, including those six in the final minute.
“We got them into foul trouble in the second half,’’ said Butler, who was 4-for-5 at the line in the second half. “Once, we got into the bonus, we just kept attacking them and getting more free throws.’’
And while that offensive strategy worked in the second half, Danville’s inability to knock down 3s and Normal Community making 7-of-12 behind the arc in the first half, had already put the Vikings into a hole.
“We gave up too many wide-open 3s,’’ Butler admitted. “We were helping on the drives, taking that away, but we needed to close out better on the shooters.’’
After back-to-back victories where the Vikings pressure defense had ignited their offense, on Friday night, Danville was only able to force 10 turnovers against Normal Community and only one or two came from its pressure defense and let to fast-break opportunities.
“It hurt us at the start of the game that we couldn’t get the ball in the basket,’’ Houpt said. “I don’t know if we got a turnover off of our press. And then they were able to knock down the 3s and we weren’t able to get anything going.
“When we are doing well with our press, it transfers over to the offensive end. You look at how we shot the ball (42 percent), it wasn’t because we were exceptionally guarded. We were getting the same shots that we had in the previous games, but we didn’t have the same energy going.’’
Danville senior Denzel Smith scored a game-high 25 points and he had a team-high five rebounds. Smith, who fouled out in the final minute, had just four points in the fourth quarter.
Normal Community senior Tyler Seibring led the Ironmen with 21 points, while Thompson had 15.
Danville is back in action this afternoon with a non-conference contest against Peoria Richwoods. The make up game from December will be played at the Mary Miller Gymnasium on the campus of Danville Area Community College as Danville High is hosting the Midwest Classic. The JV contest is scheduled to tip off at 3:30 p.m. with the varsity game tentatively set for 5 p.m.
In the junior varsity contest, Normal Community defeated Danville 53-51 on a last-second shot. Jordan Cunningham led the Vikings with 16 points, while Antaius Collier had 13.