BY CHAD DARE
Most fans at Thursday’s Pontiac Holiday Tournament had to recheck their programs during Danville’s opening-round game with Peoria Manual.
That’s because in the first 14 minutes, it was the Vikings looking more like a second-seeded team than the Rams, building a 38-21 lead.
But in the final 18 minutes, Manual overcame the 17-point deficit to beat Danville 72-65.
“We are doing some very good things,’’ Danville coach Ted Houpt said. “There are glimpses of great play.’’
But, he openly admits that its going to take more than glimpse of great play for the Vikings (2-10) to snap their current six-game losing streak.
“There was a stretch where we just played ferocious on the defensive end and really smart and poised on the offensive end,’’ he said. “We have to do that for four quarters.’’
That great stretch for Danville came in the second quarter.
Junior forward Jarhed Watson came off the bench to score six of his 13 first-half points during a Vikings 19-2 run.
“He gave us a great spark,’’ Houpt said. “He had a lot to do with where we were because he was very active.’’
Danville was 6-for-8 from the field during that run and Manual was held to just one shot on five possessions and had turnovers in other three.
“In the first half, we didn’t come out with a lot of fight and a lot of intensity,’’ Manual coach Derrick Booth said. “Give Danville credit.’’
But a timeout by Booth seemingly turned things around for the Rams (10-1).
Manual ended the first half with an 8-0 run, cutting Danville’s lead from 17 down to nine (38-29).
“We are not making the same decisions we made to get the lead,’’ Houpt said. “That’s how a 17 point lead can go down to nine.
“It’s like they don’t believe what we are doing can actually work.’’
Danville regained its double digit lead early in the second half, but Manual responded with a 15-0 run, with six of those points coming on second-chance opportunities.
“If we are going to get them second-chance opportunities after playing great defense like we did than we will have a tough time closing out any decent team and Manual is more than a decent team,’’ Houpt said. “I don’t how many times we would play great defense and they would get an offensive rebound.’’
And while the Vikings were struggling on the defensive end, four straight turnovers and two quick shots aided the Rams comeback.
“When we have a chance to set up our half-court defense, we are really tough to score against,’’ Houpt said. “But when we turn it over or take a quick shot, the other team is able to get down court before we get set up.
“I think that’s why good things happens in bunches, because when we play smart and well offensively, we can set up our defense and we can get after it.’’
Manual outscored Danville 10-5 in second-chance points in the second half after the Vikings had a 9-6 advantage at halftime.
“That’s why I thought they got the lead — we didn’t do a good job of keeping them off the boards,’’ Booth said. “In the second half, the tides changed and we got a lot of second-chance points and three-point plays.’’
And even when Manual took the lead in the second half, Danville retook the lead three more times before finally falling in the closing seconds.
“There is definitely progress. We played a lot better this game,’’ Houpt said. “When went down, we were able to come back and take the lead again. It didn’t all cave in on us at once.’’
But with just two victories in 12 games and six-game losing streak, the first-year coach admits he is pleased with his team’s attitude.
“The kids are still playing hard and they are staying together,’’ he said. “It’s easy to be discouraged and it’s difficult to find good things in a loss.
“The only other choice is to get down. We can’t change the past, we have to stay positive.’’
Danville will look to extend its stay at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament in a consolation bracket game this morning against Oak Park-River Forest, a 53-51 loser to Warren Township.
Tipoff is set for 9:30 a.m. between the Vikings and the Huskies and the game can be heard locally on WDAN-AM 1490.