Vikings can't climb out of early hole

Vikings can't climb out of early hole

NORMAL — The basketball game started on time, but in reality, it ended early.

That happens when the opposing team scores 14 points — and allows none — on its first five possessions.

“That’s the one thing we couldn’t afford to let happen,” Danville coach Ted Houpt said. “We said if we could stay close we could make them feel pressure. They jumped us right from the start. They were clearly a better team.”

After 2 minutes, 20 seconds, the Vikings were never within 10 points of Normal Community, the Big 12 Conference champion that won 63-40 on Tuesday.

For Houpt, the reality of the way his first season as head coach ended doesn’t need to indicate the direction the program is heading.

“We’ve got to give them offseason workouts,” Houpt said. “We’ve got to be in the gym as much as possible. It has got to be more of a commitment. The guys in the gym have to be more purposeful.”

Devyn McGuire, one of four seniors who played in their final game, came off the bench to lead Danville in scoring (10 points) and rebounding (five). McGuire hit two three-pointers, as did another senior, Steven Williams. Williams and junior Denzel Smith scored eight points apiece.

“The guys coming back are extremely excited about what we can do,” Houpt said. “We’re not that far off from other teams in the conference. We can’t wait to get to work. The positive thing is the guys want to do something. It’s our job (as coaches) to lead them.”

Normal Community, which has a 19-game winning streak, nailed three three-pointers (its total for the game) in the opening 2:40, building an 11-0 lead. Thereafter, 12 of the team’s final 20 baskets were layups.

“We have to become more skilled and better prepared coming into next season,” Houpt said. “This evening, there probably wasn’t much we could have done to cure tonight. I respect our effort, but they bring in the third string and are running plays for layups.”

The growth this season — which ended with the team at less than full strength due to ineligibilities and defections — was noticeable, Houpt said.

“Solidarity and a collective purpose,” Houpt said,  “and we did a much better job the second half of the year handling pressure.”

The Vikings (5-21) opened the season with a loss. Ninety-nine days later — on Tuesday — they ended with a loss. Now, there’s nearly nine months to prepare for another season of high school basketball.

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