BY ROB WITZEL
The young Danville Viking basketball team came into Friday night’s contest mismatched against a more skilled Bloomington Purple Raider team.
The Vikings had a strong early showing and a first quarter lead. But after a dismal second quarter, the game got away and they couldn’t get it back. Danville would lose their 19th game, this time 55-43.
“Once again we competed and stayed in the game,” Viking Coach Ted Houpt “(Bloomington is) just a more skilled team than we are. They made tough shots and we’ve struggled to make shots all year.”
The game began in favor of the visiting Raiders with an early 7-3 run.
But then came a very impressive run by the Vikings, in particular Kylen Butler. Butler scored nine points of an 11-0 scoring drive and with it took all the momentum. At the end of the quarter, Butler would have more points than the entire Bloomington team.
“Kylen is a pretty good shooter,” Houpt said “He’s struggled all year but it’s not from a lack of effort. He practices more than anyone I know at the high school level. He puts in more time at the YMCA and after practice. He’s just struggled to get into rhythm but tonight he got into a good, short rhythm.
“What’s frustrating is that we need to get some more offensive spurts, we’re good enough defensively to keep ourselves in games. “
But then the good news started turning sour for Danville. After an outstanding close of the first quarter, the Vikings looked dismal in the second. Bloomington took back the lead, all the momentum and left Danville with just one point from a Butler free throw. The Raiders’ 12 points would give them a 19-15 lead at halftime.
“Bloomington started getting after it a little more defensively and we weren’t able to move the ball like we did in the first,” Houpt said. “We couldn’t get the ball to the wings, so we went to dribbling and we couldn’t get a lot of motion. We also had a few layups go in and out. They just played us tough defensively and we struggled.”
The Vikings offensive struggles were also contributed to by the absence of Denzel Smith, who missed the game because of school related issues.
“Not having Denzel hurt us. That’s usually 17 points and eight rebounds. But that’s part of the game. You have to play with who you have,” Houpt said.
In the third quarter Danville struck first with a Stephen Williams basket, but then Bloomington began to break away going on a 9-4 run. But then Danville’s Jarhed Watson got hot and scored five points of a 7-1 drive that closed the gap up. At the end of three quarters, Danville trailed 35-29.
In the final quarter, Bloomington scored their most of any quarter with 20. The strong finish would put Antonio Simms, Jamaal McDavis and Brady Rose all into double digit scoring and carry the Raiders to victory.
The Vikings were led in points by Butler who had 12. Behind him were Marcus Merriweather with nine and Trent Shefield with six.
Danville will play their final game of the regular season at Champaign Central next Friday night.