DANVILLE — A forgettable season for the Danville Vikings as a team ended with a memorable performance individually from Jaron Cunningham.
The four-year letterman capped his prep career with a double-double on a night the Vikings (8-19) exited from the postseason with a 49-33 Class 4A boys' basketball regional tournament semifinal loss to Normal West.
"It was one of his better games in his career," Danville coach Gary Tidwell said.
Cunningham scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds, his second consecutive double-double. His dominance for Danville was reflected in the box score. Taking away his performance, his teammates combined to hit 15.2 percent of their shots (5 of 33) and were scoreless during a fourth quarter that started with the Wildcats leading 36-31.
"Jaron played outstanding," Tidwell said.
"He is a great role model and a great example."
Cunningham, whose rebounds accounted for half of Danville's totals, hopes to continue his career at a four-year school but is undecided on the exact one.
"I feel like I played well," Cunningham said, though the outcome left him feeling less than his best. "As a senior, this hurts."
Danville's last lead, 19-18, came on a putback by Cunningham with 3:55 left in the first half. It was the final basket for the Vikings until the third quarter.
"At the beginning, we had a lot of intensity, but in the second half, they forced us to turn the ball over and we couldn't finish strong," Cunningham said.
Well before the final quarter, when the only two points were on free throws by Cunningham at the 2:23 mark, shooting marksmanship had deserted the Vikings. The other senior starter, Dennis Hightower, was 0 for 12 on three-pointers, many from well behind the 19-foot, 9-inch arc.
The team's scoring leader for the season, Hightower totaled four points, all in transition.
"Dennis struggled, but both he and Jaron have had great careers," Tidwell said. "We started three sophomores tonight and we hope that experience will carry over into next year."
The regular season game between the two Big 12 Conference schools was a six-point win for Normal West (22-7).
"The last time, they were the aggressors and killed us on the boards," Wildcats coach Brian Cupples said. "Tonight, we played well with the lead and did a good job of keeping the ball out of their hands."
More than anything, Tidwell regarded Normal West's delay game as one of the keys.
"They were disciplined and managed the clock well," Tidwell said, "and they did a great job defensively making us shoot from the outside.
"We couldn't hit shots the second half."
Danville's 1-for-19 accuracy on three-pointers included misses on each of the final 13 attempts from long range. Marcus Merriweather converted the team's only trey at 5:44 of the second quarter to break a 13-13 tie.
Normal West will return to Danville on Friday for the 7:30 p.m. title game against its city rival, conference champion Normal Community.
The 6-foot Cunningham, who hit 7 of his 10 shots, can start looking to a future that includes a possible major in sports management. He is considering Bradley University as well as MacMurray and Manhattan College.
Danville, which had won two straight games to finish the regular season, ends with its fifth sub-.500 season in the past eight years and with its most losses in more than four decades. The last Danville team to lose 19 games was the 1967-68 squad.