CHAMPAIGN — Producing points in bunches is nothing new to the men’s basketball teams from Parkland College and Danville Area Community College.
The Cobras and Jaguars have made a habit all season long of scoring in the high 70s and low 80s, with potent offenses on display nearly every night.
Wednesday night’s rivalry showdown between the two programs at Dodds Athletic Center played out as expected from that standpoint.
But DACC used a 51-point first half and made some key shots at the right moments to stall No. 14 Parkland’s comeback efforts during a tense 90-77 upset victory by the visiting Jaguars.
“I think guys were ready to play this game,” DACC coach DaJuan Gouard said. “Offensively, we executed. We made a lot of big shots. It’s an emotional game. When you get a game like this, where teams are fighting for first place, you have got competitive players. I love it.”
After trailing 51-36 at halftime, the Cobras (16-5, 2-1 MWAC) cut into the lead of the Jaguars (11-9, 3-1) during a 10-minute stretch to begin the second half.
As tensions rose in the final 20 minutes — Champaign natives Bailey Dee (DACC) and Tommy Makabu (Parkland) both received second-half technical fouls at different points — the Cobras found themselves trailing 71-63 with 9:26 left in regulation. Carter Jeffries thought he had pulled Parkland even closer, but his made turnaround jumper off the backboard did not count after the 6-foot-5 sophomore guard was whistled for an offensive foul.
The Cobras stayed within an eight- to 11-point range of the Jaguars for much of the final nine minutes, but Parkland didn’t make close to enough defensive stops down the stretch to get the game any closer.
Dee, a former Champaign Central standout, led the Jaguars with 20 points. Malik Parker (19 points) and Armon Brummett (18 points) complemented Dee’s stellar performance, while the Cobras received 20 points from both Jeffries and Joey Saracco.
“Nothing much changed (defensively) the entire game for us,” Parkland coach Anthony Figueroa said. “We allowed 90 points. They were just better than us. They were better prepared. They were better-coached. They were more aggressive. They were hungrier. Whatever adjectives you want to use, that was them. We were not up to par.”
Area stars key Cobras in win. Take a quick glance at the Parkland women’s basketball roster and it doesn’t take long to arrive at a player from an east central Illinois high school.
The Cobras, after all, have five former area standouts on first-year coach Allie Lindemann’s roster. That local talent has been a big part of why Parkland is nearing the 20-win mark on the season.
And Wednesday night’s conference game against Danville Area Community College was no different, with the Cobras getting a team-leading 18 points from Tuscola graduate Cassie Russo during Parkland’s 77-53 victory against the Jaguars at Dodds Athletic Center.
Russo, who also tied Emily Meinert for the team-lead in rebounds with seven, finished 7 of 8 from the field to pace Parkland (19-3, 3-1 MWAC). The 5-foot-10 forward got plenty of help, as well, against DACC (4-11, 0-3), with St. Joseph-Ogden product Peyton Crowe, a freshman, netting 14 points for the Cobras.
“Most of us have played against each other in high school,” Russo said of the local flavor on this season’s Cobras’ team, which also includes Alex Specht (Blue Ridge), Kiersten Price-Wilson (Tri-County) and Bree Trimble (SJ-O). “There’s always that rivalry at first, but we all just end up getting close.”
That close connection worked in the second and third quarters that saw Parkland outscore DACC 47-24 to overcome an evenly-matched opening period. Lauryn Wiley led DACC with 17 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough to counter the balanced offense shown by Parkland.
Russo was a big part of a stretch in the third quarter where the Cobras opened their lead to as many as 28 points, with the sophomore making three straight field goals in the paint.
“Cassie has been huge,” Lindemann said of Russo. “She’s always reliable. She had a phenomenal game (Wednesday). She’s not going to do anything fancy, but she does things you don’t necessarily see on a stat board all the time. (Wednesday) she filled up the stat sheet. She’s one of our leaders and has been a major force for us.”