CHAMPAIGN — Fans focus on flashy elements as the difference in basketball games: the last-second game-winning shot or the late-game block. Coaches have a different emphasis. They note hustle plays and defensive stops.
However Friday’s Big 12 game at Combes Gym was viewed, there were no shortage of heroes in Central’s 57-48 win against Danville.
Kameron Rowan provided the flash. He had 17 points and a steal of an inbounds pass that he converted into a layup in the final 21/2 minutes when Central’s lead was a point. He also hit two free throws to put the Maroons ahead to stay, 42-40, with 6 minutes, 11 seconds left.
Junior teammate Lucas Beesley registered a workmanlike performance that caught the attention of his coach.
“He didn’t score a lot (four points), but he was so active and got his hands on a lot of balls,” Central coach Wayne McClain said. “He did a good job offensive rebounding. He was as good as anybody on the boards.”
Beesley hauled down a game-high 10 rebounds, five on the offensive end.
The Maroons held an edge on the intangibles, too. Central’s bench outscored Danville’s non-starters, 21-2, and McClain’s team hit 4 of 4 free throws in the last 34.9 seconds to finish the win.
“We haven’t had the same starting lineup,” McClain said. “We have so much parity. That’s why practices are so competitive.”
After starting strong (a 14-5 lead less than six minutes into the game), Central had to play catchup. The Vikings used a 19-4 run to take a lead they built into a seven-point cushion (37-30) with 2:25 left in the third quarter.
“No doubt, this is the most painful loss we’ve felt in a long time,” Danville coach Ted Houpt said. “There’s something about this one that makes you feel sick. That may not be a bad thing. You’ve got to feel enough pain to make sure it won’t happen again.”
Denzel Smith led Danville with 21 points, 11 in the third period. Kylen Butler had 14 points. They combined for 14 of Danville’s 28 rebounds.
“We’re playing well enough for three quarters to win,” Houpt said. “Games are slipping away from us, and we have to figure it out. I don’t know if they can give more effort, but they can be more mentally present when the game is on the line. Central got after it, and when it came down to the clutch, they handled it better than we did.”
Wesley Dee scored nine points, Isiah Smith eight and Dominique Brize seven for Central.
Central’s team balance doesn’t translate into the same players being consistent from game to game. “Me yelling is the most consistent guy we’ve got,” McClain said. “We’re a long ways away from where we want to be.”
Danville’s Houpt can relate to that sentiment.
Big 12 boys’ standings
TEAM CONF. ALL
Bloomington 5-0 7-5
Centennial 5-1 11-4
Normal Comm. 4-2 9-4
Central 3-2 7-6
Urbana 3-3 6-8
Danville 2-4 4-9
Eisenhower 1-3 4-7
MacArthur 1-4 7-6
Normal West 0-5 2-10
Central 57, Danville 48
Normal Community 70, Urbana 43
Eisenhower vs. Washington at St. Anthony Shootout, 4 p.m.
Urbana at Central, 5:30 p.m.
Richwoods at Normal West, 6:30 p.m.
Danville at Centennial, 7:30 p.m.