Danville's magical run ends
NORMAL — Losses are a part of every game.
They are easier to accept if they occur in fiercely fought competitive contests.
“This is not the way we wanted to see it end,” Danville boys’ basketball coach Ted Houpt said Friday night.
His Vikings, underdogs in the previous two games, couldn’t complete a three-game sweep for the week against favored teams in the IHSA Class 4A regional tournament at Normal Community.
Playing against the home school, which has won seven regional titles in the past decade, Danville endured a scoreless spell of 9 minutes, 13 seconds to start the game — falling behind 16-0 — and ending the season with a 71-42 loss.
“We wanted to have a good game and play well and finish it off, even in a loss,” Houpt said.
In his pregame list of concerns, Houpt had three areas at the top of his list.
“The biggest fears were they would use their size well, they would shoot well and we would shoot poorly,” Houpt said.
The rebounding edge favored the Ironmen 36-13. The home team made 57.4 percent of its shots, and the Vikings were accurate on only 33 percent of their attempts.
“That adds up to a pretty clear defeat,” Houpt said.
Seniors Denzel Smith and Kylen Butler were the top Danville scorers. Smith hit a team-high 21 points. Butler scored 10 points to go with a team-high five rebounds.
Smith was the area’s second-leading scorer this season (22.5 average).
“He was getting double-teamed every night and shooting a very high percentage with shots he made look easy that weren’t easy,” Houpt said. “He is one of the best to come through Danville High School in quite a while.
“What he did was incredible. (Friday night), he made some unbelievably difficult shots.”
Smith is headed to a junior college and, Houpt said, has received interest from most of the top juco programs in the country.
“He can pick about anyone he wants,” Houpt said, “and he can still get better.”
Smith’s basket from the baseline got Danville on the scoreboard with 6:47 left before halftime. It was the first of five shots in a row he hit. By halftime, Smith had 11 points.
Normal Community (22-8) continued its mastery of Danville. The Ironmen not only won the season series, 3-0, but have captured 10 consecutive wins against the Vikings.
Danville finished with an 11-17 record, but with wins in five of its final seven games.
“We closed well, did good things and showed great character,” Houpt said. “That will make the summer easier. We can see we’re going in the right direction.”
For the outcome to have been different Friday, Houpt needed his team to score from the outset against the Ironmen’s tenacious man-to-man defense.
“We thought if we could get on them early we could make them feel some pressure,” he said, “but we’ll never know if they would have.”
Danville was 0 for 9 in the opening quarter.
“We haven’t seen a lot of man (defense) recently,” Houpt said, “and they play theirs a little different, packing it in so tight. They make it tough to get any kind of rhythm.”
Besides Smith and Butler, Kemony Lester was the only other Viking with more than two points. Lester had five points.
Normal Community plays Rock Island at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the East Moline Sectional.