BY ROB WITZEL firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — DANVILLE — The Danville boys basketball team had been struggling to start the 2013-2014 season. Coming into Tuesday’s game against Urbana, the Vikings were 1-2 in the Big 12 Conference and 2-5 overall.
On Friday, they lost 64-49 and things needed turned around.
On Tuesday night, that turnaround just may have begun.
An unlikely star shined bright Tuesday night at the Danville High School gymnasium. While Kylen Butler led the team in points and Denzel Smith had another 20-point game, senior Kemony Lester came off the bench and proved to be a valuable asset in the 73-66 win over the Urbana Tigers.
Lester scored 15 points and trailed only Butler (22) and Smith (20) but his contributions off of the stat sheet were most impressive.
“He came off the bench and gave us an incredible spark,” Danville coach Ted Houpt said. “Not just hitting shots but with his defensive intensity too. He was running around the floor, getting after loose balls. He was great.
Lester, who had been struggling early on in the season, credits those around him for turning it around tonight.
“I haven’t had a good season but my teammates kept me going, telling me my shots are going to start dropping. And my coaches kept me on track the whole time,” Lester said.
The emergence of Lester as a legitimate offensive weapon opened up things for the team’s biggest weapon in Smith. The Tigers could not double team Smith because when they did, Lester and Butler took advantage of it.
“When different guys are scoring it opens things up,” Lester said. “Everyone can do anything at any given time.”
The game didn’t begin so smoothly for the Vikings as they began the game in a scoring drought. It looked especially ugly when the Tigers went on an 8-0 run to start things off.
“We came out with a little bit of jitters and Urbana came out and hit us hard,” Houpt said. “But then we got over those jitters and got a little more aggressive, made some baskets and we turned around.”
The Viking would finish with a 14-5 run to end the quarter trailing 17-16.
In the second quarter, the offense caught fire especially from 3-point land. Danville hit 5 three pointers: two from Lester, two from Butler and one from Smith. At halftime, Danville led Urbana 44-40.
The three point success of Danville was a big part of their victory. Four Vikings combined to hit nine three-pointers for 27 points. Butler hit five, Smith two, Lester two and Jarhed Watson had one.
“We work on three-pointers all the time,” Houpt said. “We have some decent shooters but just haven’t put it together in a game. When things get going as you saw tonight, we’re a completely different team.”
The start of the second half was dramatically different from the start of the first. Danville began with a 10-3 run, Urbana balanced things out a bit later but the Viking still led after the 3rd quarter 60-55.
In the fourth quarter, Urbana made things interesting but never got within more than three points. Danville hit the necessary free throws at the end of the game and walked away with a win and a big confidence boost.
“After a win, it tells us we can win the next one,” Lester said.
While Lester was the spark of the game, Smith continued his stellar season with another 20 point game. Smith has now scored twenty or more points in six of the team’s eight contests.
Danville (3-5, 2-2) looks to build off the win and ride the momentum into Saturday night where they host Peoria Richwoods.