CHAMPAIGN — Rantoul High School knew what to expect from Urbana.
“I watched four game films and saw them in person on Friday,” coach A.J. Richard said.
What the Eagles didn’t know was how well the Tigers would execute their game plan.
Urbana made at least half of its shots from the field in every quarter and overpowered Rantoul 80-57 on Monday in a first-round Class 3A boys’ basketball playoff game.
“Combined, they didn’t shoot that well in the games I saw,” Richard said.
Conner Gremer, who scored a game-high 26 points, made all six of his first-half shots and eight in a row before he missed. He ended up 11 of 14, including two of three from three-point range.
The fifth-seeded Tigers (9-17) return to Central’s Combes Gym on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. semifinal game against top-seeded Centennial. They are coming off a sterling performance, which coach Vashoune Russell called “one of our best games of the year.
“The kids were relaxed and didn’t get rattled. The seniors realize there’s no tomorrow. The last time we played that well was the first game of the Collinsville Tournament (in December).”
Urbana made 59.3 percent of its shots (32 of 54) from the field.
There were seven lead changes in the first 61/2 minutes before Urbana used a 12-0 run to pull ahead 20-10 in the final 10 seconds of the period. The tying basket was scored by Patrick McQueen, and the go-ahead tally was by Nick Romito from the baseline. His shot gave the Tigers a 12-10 cushion, and Rantoul (12-16) tried to play catchup during the final 25 minutes.
“They kept their composure, and we got high percentage shots,” Russell said.
Shimaaz Ivy scored 13 points, including three of four from three-point range.
“We don’t mind the three-ball as long as guys have their feet set,” Russell said.
His team hit seven of 12 three-point tries.
Gremer had a double-double, grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds.
Urbana held a 21-5 edge on points off the bench. Korrion Taylor was a first-quarter substitution who had 10 points and a game-high seven assists. Sophomore Richard Johnson, in his third varsity game, made four of five shots and scored nine points.
There’s a reason for the Tigers’ play.
“This is the first time since Collinsville we’ve been fully loaded,” said Russell, who has had numerous players miss games throughout the season.
The Big 12 Conference champion Chargers will provide a formidable test.
“The challenge is to relax, move the ball and not get discombobulated,” Russell said. “We’ve got to get (Marcus) Catchings going. If we do, we can make some noise.”
Catchings scored seven points before fouling out against the Eagles.
Rantoul freshman Keyvonte Williams had a double-double, matching rebounds and points with 10.
“In terms of effort and intensity, he brought it (Monday night),” Richard said. “He has continued to improve.”
Senior Johnny Jones scored a team-high 16 points for the Eagles in his final prep game. He was nine of 10 from the free throw line and had a team-high three assists. Another senior, Talon Hardin, scored 14 points and nailed two second-quarter treys.
Rantoul was within seven points (30-23) in the final three minutes of the half before consecutive rebound baskets by the 6-foot-4 Gremer started a 12-5 run that led into intermission. Rantoul was never within 14 points thereafter.
On the road to Peoria
The Champaign Regional got going Monday night:
GAME 1 — Urbana (5) 80, Rantoul (4) 57
GAME 2 — Centennial (1) vs. Urbana, 7 p.m.
GAME 3 — Central (2) vs. Mahomet-Seymour (3), 7 p.m.
GAME 4 — Winners games 2 and 3, 7 p.m.
NOTE: Winner advances to Mattoon Sectional