DANVILLE — When Danville boys’ basketball coach Ted Houpt evaluates his first year as the Vikings’ head coach, Monday’s game won’t be viewed as a masterpiece.
There were mistakes and missed shots that would prevent it from a high ranking in terms of quality of play.
And yet, it is a game he will remember. And treasure.
“It’s not our best game, but it’s our best finish,” Houpt said after Danville recovered from a five-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat visiting
Urbana 44-41 in a Big 12 Conference contest.
“We’ve had great games (that ended with losses), but here, we wiped away an average game with our most poised finish,” Houpt said. “We made big plays in the clutch.”
One of the keys was a steal and conversion by Trent Sherfield with 3:05 remaining that broke a 38-38 tie.
“Trent has been struggling offensively (those points were his only ones against the Tigers), but we needed some winning plays and they see him as a winner,” said Houpt, who debated with himself about returning the junior to the game.
“He made a couple of huge hustle plays and brought the energy up.”
Urbana’s Conner Gremer — who missed a potential game-tying three-pointer just before the final buzzer — converted a three-point play shortly after Sherfield’s basket to return the lead to Urbana, 41-40. Gremer finished with 10 points.
Denzel Smith’s rebound basket with 1:54 left created the game’s eighth — and final — lead change. He put Danville in command, 42-41. Smith was the only Viking in double figures. He scored 14 points and cleared a team-high six rebounds.
After teammate Marcus Merriweather converted two free throws with 1:05 to go, ending the game’s scoring, Steven Williams drew a charge in the lane on Donald McKinley, who led all scorers with 23 points.
“That charge he took was a winning play,” Houpt said.
Williams was also the game leader with four assists.
Though the Vikings are 4-16 in Houpt’s debut season, he said a continued highlight is “they come to practice and work hard. They come with spirited practices.
“In a lot of ways it has been a difficult season for all of us, but they’re hanging in there.”
A difficult season sums of Urbana’s fortunes as well.
“If there was a book on adversity, on the cover would be our colors, our jersey and ‘Urbana basketball’ across the front,” Tigers’ coach Vashoune Russell said. “We’ve had roadblocks like a broken arm, a broken nose, but our backs don’t break. That’s what I’m most proud of. We came in here and gave Danville a true fight.”
Russell sees a shining light and the end of the tunnel within reach.
“When I look at some of the pieces we’ll be getting back, we’ll be fine,” he said. “We haven’t had our full squad since Week 4.”
Two Tigers who’ve been sidelined, Marcus Catchings and Shimaaz Ivy, will rejoin the team, Russell said, for Friday’s home game against Bloomington.
McKinley hauled down a game-high 12 rebounds against the Vikings. Teammate Michael Thompson had six rebounds, five on the offensive end.