CHAMPAIGN — One night, it's an opponent still looking for its first win of the season. The next, it's a defending state champion.
Champaign Central's basketball itinerary this weekend couldn't be more different. Will the results be the same?
The Maroons sure hope so after disposing of winless Bloomington 64-51 Friday night at Combes Gym. Next up tonight on Cabutti Court: reigning Class 3A champ Rock Island.
"Our goal this weekend was to go 2-0, and we're halfway there," Maroons coach Scott Davis said.
Win No. 1 was a tale of two halves. Bloomington, which entered with an 0-17 record, went toe-to-toe with Big 12 co-leader Central in the first half. After four ties and eight lead changes, Central emerged with a 31-28 halftime lead.
"They came out hard and they hit us," Maroons guard Clayton Jones said. "And we had to hit back."
Central did just that in the third quarter, scoring the first seven points. With Jones scoring 12 of his game-high 14 points in period, the Maroons pulled away to a 55-38 lead.
Central then kept the youthful Purple Raiders at arm's length to remain tied atop the Big 12 standings at 6-1 with Normal West.
"You better beat them this year," Davis said of Bloomington, "because they're going to be a much improved team down the road. I was looking at their top scorers (entering Friday), and they were a freshman, a junior and two sophomores. They're obviously playing hard. They're learning this year, they're competing, and it's going to pay dividends down the road."
For now, however, a bigger, more physical Central team that patiently worked the ball inside was no match. Corvon Butler, a 6-foot-5 forward, had 10 points and seven rebounds for the Maroons. Myles McCarty, also 6-5, came off the Central bench to score eight.
"Offensively, this was one of our better efforts," Davis said. "We did a much better job tonight of spacing and trying to isolate the ball inside."