DANVILLE — Basketball is a game for the young, and Danville's youth movement took center stage Friday as the Vikings beat Urbana 75-65.
Long after the preliminary sophomore game had ended, not all of the Vikings' 10th-graders were in the stands.
It's a good thing. As a class, five sophomores combined for 25 points in the varsity game.
Donte Ingram has been with the varsity all season. Trent Sherfield earned his promotion right after Christmas.
Others such as Denzel Smith, Marcus Merriweather and Kylen Butler do double duty and see playing time on each unit.
Smith was a double-figure scorer in Friday's sophomore game and came right back to put in 13 points against the Urbana varsity. With senior Jaron Cunningham sidelined by an ankle injury that will keep him inactive for tonight's 6 o'clock game at Naperville North, Vikings coach Gary Tidwell turned to Smith.
"We knew the potential was there, but he has been inconsistent," Tidwell said. "Tonight, he provided positive minutes, played smart, finished well and didn't force the issue.
"With his production tonight, he showed he is capable."
At one point in the fourth quarter — before the outcome was decided — sophomores Smith, Ingram and Sherfield were all on the court together.
"Our JV is having a great year (7-1 record), and that sophomore class is really strong and balanced," Tidwell said. "The future looks bright."
Senior Dennis Hightower was the game's top scorer. He nailed 5 of 8 three-point shots — two in the opening minute — and had 27 points. Smith was the only other Viking to score in double figures.
Both squads hit well from the perimeter early. Twelve minutes into the game, Hightower and Urbana's Donald McKinley were each 3 for 3 from three-point range.
The storyline, according to Urbana coach Vashoune Russell, came down to stationary shots well in front of the arc. The Tigers were 1 of 7 from the free throw line in the first half, a better percentage than the Vikings, who were 0 for 4.
"Free throws were unbelievable, and it's not like we don't work on them," Russell said. "If we knock down some free throws in the first half, the game probably would have had a different outcome.
"It allowed them to keep confident, keep the crowd in it and keep the momentum. That was the difference in the game. It was decided on free throws."
At game's end, the teams collectively were 12 of 32 from the foul line (37.5 percent).
"The free throw line has been a challenge for us all year," Tidwell said. "It's mainly concentration."
McKinley led the Tigers with 19 points. Jerrod Webster had 13 and P.J. Blissit 10. Teammate Darrion Brown was the game's top rebounder (10).
Tidwell sees a message for his team in the win.
"What it says is we've got to play defense and we've got to rebound," he said. "We did both very well tonight, and as a result, we came out ahead."