RANTOUL — Kyler Hoffman found himself cut off from the three-point line in the right corner.
Rantoul junior guard Tanner McLain blocked the path beyond the arc for the senior guard from Prairie Central late in the first half of Friday’s 68-59 victory for the visiting Hawks.
Hoffman kept his pivot foot alive, countered back toward the baseline, drove hard to the basket and deftly flicked in a left-handed layup.
“It was wide open on the baseline,” Hoffman said. “They were expecting me to go the other way and playing in, so I went in with the left hand. I’m not very big, so it’s kind of nice when I can get in there and get a few points.”
Even when Rantoul stifled Hoffman from causing havoc from three-point range, he still found ways to hurt the Eagles. Hoffman poured in a team-high 26 points on the strength of six three-pointers to overcome a career-high 33 points from Rantoul junior Johnny Jones in a matchup of dueling Corn Belt Conference guards with different skill sets.
“We still have to yell at him to shoot some,” Prairie Central coach Rick Schertz said. “He played really well for us tonight, and he’s played well lately. We do a lot of shooting in practice, and that obviously is helping him and helping our team.”
The Hawks received solid contributions from senior forward Addison Bounds (16 points, six rebounds) and senior guard Lane Maurer (11 points) in making sure Prairie Central beat the Eagles for the third time this season.
The Eagles had trimmed an eight-point halftime deficit of 35-27 and tied the game at 41 with 3:55 left in the third quarter after an offensive rebound putback by senior Weylin Williams. But the Hawks went on a 13-2 run during the next five minutes to increase their lead to 54-43 with 5:52 left after Bounds converted a drive to the basket.
“They’re a tough team,” Rantoul coach Brett Frerichs said. “They didn’t miss very much. You put so much emphasis on Bounds ... and their guards are smart players. They know where to spot up on the floor. They knocked down some big shots against us.”
■ Normal U-High 65, Mahomet-Seymour 41. The Bulldogs were outscored 55-32 from the field in losing at home. Connor Diedrich scored 13 points for M-S, while teammate Sam Hohlfelder contributed nine points and six rebounds.
U-High’s Keita Bates-Diop, an Ohio State commitment, had 23 points and five rebounds.