Rantoul's Britt, Danville's Hightower lead way in runaway
DANVILLE — It took Rantoul's Travis Britt 18 seconds to show his stuff.
Britt's steal and breakaway dunk jump-started an explosive Eastern Illinois All-Stars offense Friday night that featured seven double-figure scorers in a boys' basketball game against the Western Indiana All-Stars at Palmer Arena.
The Illinois team never trailed and built leads as large as 53 points en route to a 133-84 triumph in the opening night of the two-game series.
"We came out with a lot of intensity and a defensive presence," Britt said.
"Travis got the steal and the easy two-handed dunk, and that set the tone and opened the gates," said Eastern Illinois All-Stars coach Deon Mennenga, from Bismarck-Henning.
Danville graduate Dennis Hightower — the game's top scorer (25 points) as well as the Most Valuable Player — needed 4 minutes, 40 seconds to reach double figures for an Eastern Illinois team that rolled up 71 first-half points.
"Nobody cares who gets the most points," Hightower said. "We just wanted to have fun."
Mennenga took note of more than his team's balanced scoring.
"There was no one who was selfish, and for an all-star game that's unbelievable," Mennenga said. "These kids represented Illinois very well. They shared the ball well. Everyone brings something different to the table."
Centennial's Devin Carter — who nailed three first-half three-pointers — scored 23 points. Britt finished with 19 on 8-of-10 accuracy from the field as well as a team-high six assists.
Urbana's P.J. Blissit had 14 points and Unity's Aaron Larson had Illinois' only double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Oakwood's Cameron Lee had 12 points, and Mahomet-Seymour's Reid Farchmin chipped in 11.
Britt wasn't surprised by Hightower's point-scoring abilities.
"I've played against Dennis since seventh grade, and he has been the exact same scorer ever since," Britt said.
The familiarity — even though it came from being opponents — was beneficial, Hightower said.
"After all these years of playing against each other, we know what other people's strengths are," Hightower said. "Everybody knows their roles."
The Area Player of the Year in football, Hightower remains uncommitted to a college. He said he is leaning to accepting an offer to play basketball for two years at Lincoln Trail Community College, but added, "and then transfer somewhere to play football."
Mennenga's team started strong in the second half, quickly expanding a 33-point halftime lead. Unity's Alex Thorson drilled two three-pointers in the opening 90 seconds.
"I thought there would be a lot of points, but I never anticipated 133," Mennenga said. "I'd like to have a whole season with these guys."
The Illinois squad eclipsed the 100-point mark on the first of Britt's three second-half three-pointers. His trey lifted his team into a 102-61 edge with 12:05 remaining.
Britt also finished with four steals. Hightower grabbed eight rebounds, Lee had seven and Blissit six.
Tonight's concluding game in the series will start at 7 o'clock at Covington (Ind.) High School.