Chargers cruise past Maroons
CHAMPAIGN — It was an event within an event, all of which was a sight to behold.
Friday’s annual Battle of Champaign, the boys’ basketball version, featured players from the two public high schools adorned in pink shoes accompanied by pink laces.
The cheerleaders wore pink ribbons in their hair.
Centennial’s Luke Vaughn even broke out a pink headband, but he’s thinking about retiring it.
“I didn’t play too well with it,” Vaughn said.
The numbers on the scoreboard showed the home-team Centennial Chargers leading from start to finish while rolling past Central 78-59 before an energetic crowd estimated at 1,700.
Another set of numbers was equally significant. The schools — rivals on the court — teamed up to help raise more than $3,900 that will be donated to the American Cancer Society in the Coaches vs. Cancer matchup.
Centennial’s Dedric Byrd was told in advance what to expect. The summer transfer from Chicago Foreman had never experienced a City of Champaign showdown before.
“I was a little nervous,” Byrd said. “I saw the crowd and was like, ‘Wow. This is a big game.’ ”
So, he went out and had a big game. The junior point guard scored 16 points in the first three quarters, second only to Michael Finke, who posted a double-double (20 points, 10 rebounds).
The crowd supplied the players with an additional energy source.
“Every Centennial-Central game is a big crowd,” Finke said. “With the crowd into it, it’s a big-time atmosphere and it’s fun to play in.”
Finke knocked down a three-pointer 10 seconds into the game, and Central never caught up. The Chargers doubled the score after one quarter, 20-10, and more than doubled it at halftime, 46-22.
“We have the attitude, ‘Never let up,’ ” Finke said. “We were up 10, up 20, and we said, ‘It’s not enough.’ ”
Byrd converted two steals into layups in the first two minutes of the third period as 11th-ranked (Class 3A) Centennial increased its margin to 29 points, 53-24.
“Our first half was really good offensively and defensively and made it hard for them to get back into the game,” Centennial coach Tim Lavin said.
Central made 25.8 percent of its first-half shots (8 of 31) and was unable to pull closer than 17 points the final 16 minutes.
For Finke & Co., there’s little time to celebrate.
“We have to move on,” he said. “We have another local rival on Tuesday (in a Big 12 game at Urbana).”
Phillip Wright came off the bench to score 10 points for the Chargers. Vaughn seconded Finke in rebounding, grabbing eight missed shots.
Lavin was pleased that with all of the possibilities for distractions, his team kept its collective mind on the task at hand.
“Crazy things happen in these city games. I told them to stay focused, play hard and play for 32 minutes,” Lavin said.
Sean Suggs led the Maroons with 13 points. Xavier Martin added 11 points. The team’s top rebounder was Christopher Hutchinson with six.
Urbana 59, Eisenhower 54. Donald McKinley hit five three-point shots and scored a game-high 21 points as Urbana won in Decatur. McKinley also cleared 14 rebounds.
Tigers coach Vashoune Russell lauded the defensive efforts of Michael Thompson, who played his second game after suffering a broken nose. Thompson scored four points as Urbana won its second straight league game.
Normal Community 55, Danville 43. Denzel Smith scored 16 points and Marcus Merriweather added 13 for Danville, which couldn’t hold onto a 15-10 first-quarter lead and lost to the Ironmen at home.