BY CHAD DARE
Numerous times this season, Danville first-year basketball coach Ted Houpt has seen his Vikings come up just short of victory.
There was the triple-overtime loss to Lincoln in the Thanksgiving Tournament.
There was a heartbreaking 45-43 loss to Champaign Centennial in December.
And just last 17 days ago, there was another triple overtime loss, this time to Champaign Central.
On Friday night, Normal West senior guard Adam McGinnis made three free throws with 1.8 seconds left giving the Wildcats a come-from-behind 41-38 win over the Vikings.
“This is the biggest smile I can have in a loss,’’ Houpt said. “All year, I’ve been careful of talking too positively about losses because we don’t want to get used to that.
“Tonight, I can live with what happened on that court. I haven’t been that proud all year. That’s what we want Danville Viking basketball to be all about.’’
The only thing that Houpt and the Viking faithful would like to see differently was the outcome.
“You put that kind of effort, that kind of defense, that kind of togetherness and you believe good things are going to happen,’’ Houpt said. “They didn’t — we just couldn’t get a bounce to go our way.
“But, it was incredible energy. We just wished we had that all year. That’s who we are. That’s who we wanted to be all year. We’ve showed signs of it, but that’s how it’s supposed to look with a few more made shots.’’
Danville, which fell to 4-17 overall and 3-10 in the Big 12 Conference, had a 38-32 lead with 4 minutes, 7 seconds left but Normal West, which improved to 16-8 and 8-4, scored the game’s final nine points — five of which came at the free-throw line.
“This wasn’t the Centennial game, we didn’t miss a bunch of free throws,’’ Houpt said. “This was the Central game, we didn’t throw it away crazy.
“We just didn’t get a couple of bounces.’’
Actually, the Vikings played perfect defense on the Wildcats last-second shot attempt as Spencer Seibring had his 15-foot shot blocked.
But McGinnis grabbed the loose ball, and got fouled on a 3-point attempt according to the officials.
“It was very unfortunate,’’ Houpt said. “We played really good defense. We got them to miss the shot. We went all the way down to the final seconds. I just wish we would have gotten that rebound.’’
The final outcome was completely different than the first meeting in which the Wildcats rolled past the Vikings 62-39.
“They are a tough team. We talked about that the last time when we lost by 20, because they played tougher and they played smarter than we did,’’ Houpt said. “We kept saying that there is no reason we can’t do that as well. That’s what we did tonight. We matched their energy and intensity, but they bring it all of the time.
“We want to be like that all of the time, as well.’’
Houpt gave credit to senior forward Martez Davis for igniting the Vikings at the end of the first half.
“He hasn’t gotten a lot of time this year, but like a lot of guys, he has worked his tail off in practice,’’ Houpt said. “It was time for him to get a few minutes. He made the most of four minutes without scoring a basket.’’
And that defensive intensity carried over in the second half as the Vikings turned an 8-point halftime deficit into a 36-29 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Danville opened the third quarter with 5-0 run, but it was an 8-0 run to start fourth that got the Danville High gymnasium rocking.
“That gym was as loud as it has been in years and it was because of our defense and energy,’’ Houpt said. “Everyone loves the dunk and the crossover, but I know that Danville respects effort and they respect hard work.
“Our fans were fantastic tonight.’’
Marcus Merriweather led the Vikings with 12 points, including three 3-pointers, while Trent Sherfield finished with 10 points.
Danville played without junior forward Denzel Smith, the Vikings leading scorer, because of a bad week of practice, according to Houpt.
The Vikings are back at home next Friday with another Big 12 Conference contest against the Decatur MacArthur Generals. The sophomores start at 6 with the varsity tentatively set for 7:30.
In Friday’s sophomore contest, Normal West defeated Danville 33-18. Aubrey Duncan had a team-high five points for the Vikings.