CHAMPAIGN – When the Battle of Champaign last was waged Jan. 11, Centennial and Champaign Central played to a sellout crowd.
If that ever before happened at Centennial's 2,300-seat gym – the largest high school basketball venue in Champaign-Urbana – it was before Central athletic director John Woods started regularly attending Maroons-Chargers boys' games.
"What I witnessed at Centennial was phenomenal," Woods said Tuesday. "I've been going to Central-Centennial games since I was 9 years old, and I've never witnessed a situation like that where Centennial had to stop selling tickets and stop people from coming in. And that includes when (Charger great) Roger McClendon was there (in the 1980s).
"Of course, I never remember both teams being so doggone good in the same season."
When the state-ranked Class 3A teams renew their rivalry Friday at Central's 1,250-seat Combes Gym, demand again is expected to exceed supply. For that reason, Central is putting tickets on sale in advance for the 7:30 p.m. meeting between No. 5 Central (14-6) and No. 8 Centennial (16-5).
Tickets will be available at the Central athletic office today and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Any remaining tickets also will be available Friday. Prices are $3 for adults and $2 for students.
Centennial will not hold a public sale of its allotment of tickets, according to Charger athletic director Brian Easter. He said Tuesday those tickets already had been allocated.
Woods said he hopes the presale of tickets will help Central avoid the situation it faced in December 2005, when school officials were caught off guard by the crowd size for a Chargers-Maroons game at Combes Gym. Woods admits the school was not prepared to deal with the long lines of ticket seekers – some of whom were turned away when seating capacity was reached – as well as the potential for security issues with a crowd of that size.
"I think it was the first time we sold out," Woods said. "We were not prepared for that by any stretch of the imagination. We had printed up sold-out signs just in case, but we didn't do any pre-ticket sales.
"We probably didn't have enough police security to handle security inside and outside. But we've got that now."
Woods said at least four Champaign police officers would be assigned to the game. Central's student resource officer and other administrators from each school also will be on hand to help monitor crowd control.