DANVILLE — There are times that life imitates art.
But Phil Connors has got nothing on Danville High boys basketball coach Ted Houpt.
Connors, played by Bill Murray, was the main character in the movie "Groundhog Day." In the film, Connors keeps reliving the same day over and over.
On Friday night, Houpt saw his Vikings go through an experience that they have seen multiple times this season and when Normal West left the Danville gymnasium with a 65-62 overtime victory, it left the second-year coach looking for new ways to describe what happened.
"I keep saying that you can't say it was a great effort and we played with a lot heart, but we lost again,'' Houpt said. "But, I don't know what else to say. I could be more proud with our effort in the second half. It just wasn't enough.''
Danville, which falls to 4-11 overall and 2-6 in the Big 12, rallied from a 18-point deficit and senior Kylen Butler drained a game-tying 3-pointer with two seconds left in the regulation to send the contest into overtime.
"I thought when that 3-pointer went down, it was going to be our time,'' Houpt said.
But in the overtime session, Normal West sophomore guard Josh Robinson, who had a game-high 26 points, scored all eight of his team's points, including making 6-of-6 free throws to give the Wildcats (4-7, 2-5) their fourth win in the past six games.
"West has been a team that has struggled this year like us,'' said Houpt, noting the Wildcats lost 57-56 last Saturday on a last-second shot by Peoria Richwoods' Ashten Bean. "I thought this was our time to get a win like that, but we couldn't get the ball in the basket at the end.''
With less than a minute left in the overtime, Danville had a 62-61 lead with senior Jarhed Watson, who scored a team-high 21 points, going to the free-throw line for two shots.
Watson, who had been 4-of-4 at the charity stripe, missed both shots but the Vikings grabbed the rebound as senior Denzel Smith went up over a pair of Wildcat defenders. Smith had two more attempts, but neither shot within 5 feet went through the basket.
"No one is trying harder to make those free throws or those layups than those kids on the floor,'' Houpt said. "It's devastating for them, that those shots didn't go in.
"These guys are trying so hard to get a win.''
Robinson got to the line twice in the final 40 seconds for West, knocking down all four shots to seal the victory.
"He is hard to keep in front of you on defense,'' Houpt said. "We might have pressured him a little too much. Even when we got there and got our chest in front of him, he made a couple of tough shots.
"He was impressive in the clutch.''
Danville had been 10-of-11 at the free-throw line in the first three quarters, but the Vikings made just 8-of-13 in the fourth quarter and overtime, while the Wildcats were 13-of-16 in the final 6 minutes, 39 seconds of the contest.
"We've been a better free-throw shooting team this year,'' Houpt said. "Some of our really good free-throw shooters missed some at the end. I know they are trying.
"But that's the difference, they made their free throws and we didn't make our free throws and a couple layups.''
While Robinson did his damage in the second half, scoring 17 of his game-high 26 during that stretch, he was also a big factor in the Wildcats build a 35-24 halftime lead as Normal West made 13 of its first 18 shots from the field.
At one point, Danville found itself trailing 28-10 with 4:31 left in the first half. The Vikings ended the second quarter with a 14-7 run, and they took a 44-43 lead on two free throws by Smith early in the fourth quarter.
"We didn't come out ready to play, we came out flat again,'' Houpt said. "That really put us up against it, but we had our chances in overtime.
"It was just too difficult come back. It was too much work that we didn't need to happen.''
Houpt admits that he is searching for the right answers as Danville has lost four straight, and six of its last seven.
"Every time I think I feel as bad as you can after a game, I should by now, it can get worst,'' he said. "It's devastating see these guys put in that kind of effort, and pull together like that, but they still have that same feeling.''
Up next for the Vikings is a Big 12 game at home against the Decatur MacArthur Generals. Tip off on Tuesday is set for 6 p.m. with the junior-varsity game and the varsity contest is tentatively set to be begin at 7:30 p.m. The Generals, who have won four straight, are led by senior guard Marcus Bartley, who has already signed to play at St. Louis University next season.
In the junior varsity contest, the Normal West Wildcats rallied from a four-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Danville Vikings 36-30 in overtime. Danville scored just five points in the final 12 minutes, fourth quarter and overtime.
Antaius Collier was the leading scorer for the Vikings with 11 points, while T.J. Henderson had eight.