Finke, Maroons starting to get healthy

Finke, Maroons starting to get healthy

URBANA — In the Centralia Holiday Tournament's championship game Dec. 30 between Champaign Central and Belleville West, Tim Finke was about as far from basketball-healthy as possible.

According to Jeff Finke, the Maroons boys' hoops coach and Tim's father, his son could hardly run or jump in a contest Central lost 62-61. The Maroon senior wasn't feeling a whole lot better last week in consecutive tilts against Centennial and Vashon (Mo.).

But on Friday night, when Central visited Big 12 Conference rival Urbana, Tim Finke looked like his old self.

The 6-foot-4 Grand Canyon signee deposited a game-high 22 points while dishing out numerous assists and pulling down a handful of rebounds, overcoming Tiger student-section chants of "GCU!" and "Overrated!" to lift the Maroons to a 75-51 victory.

"I try not to focus on what people say too much," Tim Finke said with a chuckle. "But I try to play my game, go out there and do what I need to do and what I know I can do, and people are going to say what they're going to say."

Tim Finke said his lower back has been ailing him, but noted that by "babying" the injury, he's gotten to a much better place than he was in late last month.

That made it doubly difficult to knock the upperclassman's performance Friday for Central (9-5, 4-1 Big 12), which received 14 points from senior Jonte Coleman, 12 from senior A'Kieon Gill and 10 from freshman Khailieo Terry.

"It's really nice to have so many weapons," Tim Finke said. "You always feel comfortable making the extra pass and you can trust everybody — that they're going to make good decisions with the ball (and) they're going to score."

Central generated a 27-20 halftime edge behind 13 points from Finke and a defensive press in which four Maroons lingered ahead of halfcourt to badger Urbana (5-10, 1-4).

Then came the third quarter, which started with Central bursting out on a 13-0 run to abruptly put the game out of reach.

Tigers coach Verdell Jones Jr. said his team's lack of consistent mental fortitude ultimately created trouble, and the Maroons' bucket-filling dash to open the second half only compounded problems.

"I've always told our guys, 'We've got to control what we can control,'" Jones said. "Transition defense, rebounding — most of the time we play, we're probably going to be outsized. And so we've got to go back to the fundamentals, to the foundations and principles of basketball."

Outside of junior Payton Sheen, who tallied 18 points, Urbana was unable to create any sort of offensive threat against Central. That's good news for Jeff Finke's Maroons, considering how little they turned to Friday's shutdown strategy in games prior.

"We have a really big defensive package, and we haven't shown much this year," Jeff Finke said. "So we decided this week it was time to start kicking it in. (Friday) we started to show a little bit of that, and I thought it helped us at times create some turnovers and a little havoc."

That was definitely true as the Tigers racked up 19 miscues while also falling on the wrong end of a 38-22 margin on the boards. And with Tim Finke carrying a hot hand, that was a recipe for disaster with the home team.

"It's about being able to execute no matter what is going on in the game, no matter how intense it is," Jones said. "We want to turn this thing around, but we've got to realize we're not going to give up on our kids. Eventually we'll be the program we believe Urbana deserves."

Perhaps a program modeled like Central's, which will begin play in Belleville East's Chick-fil-A Classic on Tuesday against Alton. And if Tim Finke can overcome his back woes and continue piling up positive stats, the Maroons could prove a force in the eight-team, five-day tournament.

"I think I did some good things to impact the game in other ways, and scoring as well," Tim Finke said. "But I fed off my teammates (Friday) as well. When we have energy going like that, it just makes everyone play a lot better."