BY JIM COTTER email@example.com
---- — DANVILLE — The Danville Vikings sprinted out to an early lead, and never looked back, as they defeated the Decatur Eisenhower Panthers 74-44 in Big 12 Conference action on Friday evening at Danville High School.
The Vikings jumped ahead, and scored early and often, taking a commanding 23-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, as Danville’s defensive pressure was too much for Eisenhower to handle.
“We haven’t had that kind of an effort all season, and even in our losses, they have been close,” Danville coach Ted Houpt said. “It was nice to get a complete effort and get some of the guys on the bench a chance to see some action.”
Denzel Smith led a balanced attack for the Vikings with 19 points, while Kylen Butler and Jarhed Watson chipped in 14 and 13 points, respectively for Danville, who improves to 5-11 overall and moves to 3-6 in the Big 12 with the win.
We just wanted to come out, play hard and get our best players involved, and that is exactly what we did”, Smith said after the game. “Coach felt that we needed to get our adrenaline up, and thought that the full court press was the way to make it happen.”
The Vikings took a 39-24 lead into the halftime locker room, and Eisenhower started the third quarter on a 7-0 run to cut into the Danville lead. From that point on, the Vikings went back to what worked for them in the first half and never was challenged from that point on.
“They clawed back to within eight points, and made us sweat a little bit as we thought they would, and with the way we haven’t been closing games out as of late, we needed to create a little distance between us to give us some comfort,” Houpt said of his team’s intensity in the second half.
Danville was never in any foul trouble in the game as well, but took advantage of several Eisenhower fouls and ended up 16-21 from the charity stripe in the game. Aubrey Duncan hit four consecutive free throws down the stretch in the fourth quarter to finish the game with 12 points.
Butler, who was a key component of that pressure defense, thought that the effort was one of their best this season.
“We came out sluggish the last game, and Coach Houpt challenged us to be more aggressive, and we answered the call”, Butler said. When asked if this team can go on a run, Butler replied that “we are capable of anything if we apply the effort that we exhibited tonight”.
Decatur Eisenhower, who falls to 4-10 overall and 1-5 in conference play with the loss, was led in scoring by Jahre Flournoy and Braxton Woodland, who each scored 10 points.
The Vikings also won the JV contest in impressive fashion 60-41, behind 17 points apiece by Nico Johnson and Antatius Collier. Jordan Cunningham added 10 points for Danville to help secure the victory.