Freeman lifts streaking Maroons
CHAMPAIGN — For those who think the upcoming Class 3A Rantoul Regional just might be the biggest postseason basketball tossup in the state, Friday's game at Centennial High School provided still more head-scratching proof.
Six weeks after the Urbana Tigers had their way with Centennial in a 20-point romp, the Chargers responded in kind, rolling to a 62-38 triumph against their short-handed Big 12 rivals.
"That first game against Urbana, it just hurt," Centennial guard Devin Carter said. "So in our mind all week we were just saying we cannot come out the same way we did last (time). We just played hard and came through with a win."
A much-needed win for the Chargers, who had lost four in a row and eight of their previous nine.
"We've been struggling, but we've been playing close," said coach Tim Lavin, whose team lost five games by five or fewer points during its slump. "We got a win on our home floor and limited our turnovers (six in the first half), and maybe that will get us going in the right direction."
For those needing direction on how to handicap the five-school Rantoul Regional, what transpired here offered no clarity. But that's so often been the case throughout a regular season full of topsy-turvy results between the regional's teams.
"I think it's pretty wide open," Lavin said. "We beat (Champaign) Central. Central beat Urbana. We split with Urbana. Mahomet(-Seymour) beat us. It's all just crazy kind of things."
After a close first quarter, Centennial (7-14, 5-3 Big 12) pulled away to a 29-20 halftime lead, then dominated the second half by a 33-18 margin. The 24-point loss was the second largest this season for the Tigers (7-11, 3-5).
"The first game, they came right out and really attacked us and pushed us around ... and we kind of backed off," Lavin said. "I think today we did a much better job of not allowing that to happen."
Carter, despite missing time in the second half with foul trouble, scored a game-high 17 points. Forward Phillip Wright added 14 points and a game-high seven rebounds.
The Tigers, who played without suspended starters P.J. Blissit and Michael Franklin, were led by Donald McKinley's 10 points.
"Our problem isn't on the basketball court; it's off the basketball court," Urbana coach Vashoune Russell said. "If guys aren't going to do the right things, then I'll take those losses. But I'm not going to play guys that aren't doing the right things in the classrooms, in the hallways. For me and the school and the community, it's bigger than basketball."
Central 74, Mattoon 55. Chris Freeman hit 6 of 8 shots and scored 14 points to lead a balanced attack that carried the first-place Maroons to a road victory. Central, which won its fourth in a row, received 11 points from Jordan Caroline and 10 from Corvon Butler.
Normal Community 67, Danville 43. Danville was outscored 20-2 in the fourth quarter in a road loss. Dennis Hightower scored 14 points and Daniel Carter had nine rebounds for the Vikings