CHAMPAIGN — One of these nights, the Centennial Chargers will be true to their nickname and bolt out of the starting gate.
Friday wasn't one of them. Again.
Bogged down by yet another in a series of sluggish starts this basketball season, the Chargers were unable to recover and lost 62-48 to the Big 12 Conference's hottest team, Normal Community.
"They just jumped on us early and pushed us around, and that seems to be our story," Centennial coach Tim Lavin said. "We've got to figure that out and not get pushed around (in) the first quarter.
"We always seem to play so much harder and better when we get down, but you can't get down against a team like that."
Not against the Ironmen, who extended their winning streak to 11 largely on the strength of a dominant first quarter. Normal Community (12-2, 4-1 Big 12) rolled to a 24-7 advantage in the game's first seven minutes and never let the Chargers draw closer than 10 points thereafter.
"They set the tone early on us," Lavin said. "They made some shots, but the ones they missed, they outhustled us to the rebounds. They pushed us out of the way for the rebounds. They just outhustled us."
The Ironmen, who finished with nine three-pointers, sank four of them in the first quarter and seven in the first half.
"The first half, the three-point shooting was the best we've had all year," Normal Community coach Dave Witzig said. "We have some guys capable of knocking down some shots and spreading the floor."
The Chargers (5-10, 3-2) outscored the Ironmen 41-38 over the game's final 25 minutes.
"After the first quarter, I thought we played fairly good," Lavin said. "We played as hard, if not harder than them, made some better decisions and played a little better defense.
"But a team like that gets up on you, it's hard to get back to them."
Said Witzig: "They made multiple runs and we were always able to keep it at that 10-point cushion."
Illinois State-bound guard Anthony Beane led the Ironmen with 21 points.
Chargers senior guard Devin Carter matched that game-high total, with nine of his points coming in a fourth-quarter flurry that helped cut the deficit to 58-48 and forced Witzig to put his starters back on the court for the final minute.
Junior forward Phillip Wright contributed eight points and five rebounds off the bench for Centennial.