BY CHAD DARE email@example.com
---- — DANVILLE — Never in his two seasons as the head coach of Danville Vikings has Ted Houpt walked off the floor at Danville High School with the feeling he had on Friday night.
Houpt struggled to find the right words to describe his team’s 64-47 loss to the Champaign Central Maroons in a Big 12 Conference boys basketball game.
“Embarrassed is a strong work, but that’s what it was,’’ he said. “Just not proud of what is going on. We’ve had some heart-wrenching defeats ... that’s a different kind of pain. Those hurt bad, but you can live them. This is the type that you can’t live with.’’
Unlike previous home games where the Vikings (6-13 overall, 4-8 in the Big 12) have fallen behind and made strong comebacks in the second half (Normal West and Normal Community in the last month), this time around, there was no energy for a comeback.
Danville went from leading 22-21 with 5 minutes, 33 seconds left in the second quarter to trailing 53-30 at the end of three quarters. Central (11-9 overall, 5-5 in the Big 12) went on a 32-8 run.
“That is just something we haven’t done here at home,’’ Houpt said, “We have been down before, so we have some experience with that, but we have always found a way to pull together make a run. Tonight, we didn’t pull together and that is something we have prided ourselves on a as a program.
“The people around this program have been patient and very supportive because they have seen that we were giving good effort and they know that we have things to work on. They appreciate that we are genuine in our beliefs in our efforts. This was a giant step backwards.’’
But, Houpt was also quick to point out that these things can happen to any team on any level in a long season.
“Hopefully, this is just a bad game, a one-time exception for our program,’’ he said. “But, you can’t tolerate that in any game. We are going to have to make sure that this never happens again.’’
The frustration for Houpt and the Danville Vikings isn’t concentrated on just offense or defense — it was the team’s all-around poor play.
“I thought we played selfishly at times and without composure,’’ said Houpt, whose team made just 1-of-11 shots in the third quarter and the Vikings missed six straight 3-pointers in the final four minutes of the quarter. “Some of us were playing really hard, but mentally, not sharp.
“Offensively, it’s the same story, we get sped up by some pressure and then we don’t run the offense. We start taking quick shots. There also some turnovers that I thought we had gotten past.’’
Champaign Central’s Noah Wells didn’t make matters any better for Danville. The guard for the Maroons buried 6-of-10 from behind the 3-point arc in the contest, scoring a game-high 20 points.
“It was impressive, but it’s hard to enjoy that,’’ said Houpt, a noted sharp-shooter during his playing days. “I really like great shooting, You don’t see much of that any more. I wish it was a different situation where I could set back and admire it. Those were daggers each time.’’
Ironically, Champaign Central first-year coach Wayne McClain decided to start Wells after his hot shooting in Thursday’s practice.
“He was great, ‘‘ McClain said. “He shot probably better in practice (on Thursday) than he did in the game. Driving over I was talking with Serg (Central assistant coach Sergio McClain) I think we have to go with him. He continued to shoot the ball well. He got us off to a great start.’’
Wells made four of his long-ranged shots in the first quarter, but it was his fifth make of the night with 5:12 left in the second quarter that gave the Maroons a 24-22 lead and they would never trail again.
“We just got hit with a bunch of 3s and you feel like you have to do something different,’’ Houpt said.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, the changes came as the Maroons scored 32 of the next 40 points.
The poor night for the Danville program wasn’t just limited to the varsity contest. The Vikings also lost the JV game, 56-39 to the Maroons.
“This night felt bad from the JV all the way up,’’ Houpt said. “This is the first time, that it was not a good product from the top down — from me all the way down to the players on the JV.’’
Danville senior Jarhed Watson scored 12 of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter as he made four straight 3-pointers after the game was already decided, while senior Denzel Smith, who didn’t start because he missed practice this week with an illness, finished with 15 points off the bench. Junior Aubrey Duncan had a game-high eight rebounds in the losing cause.
In the JV contest, Jordan Cunningham had a team-high 13 points.
Danville will attempt to turn things around tonight with a make-up game against Decatur MacArthur. The JV game will begin at 6 p.m. and the varsity contest is tentatively set for 7:30.