CHAMPAIGN — Each Parkland College basketball team held a prominent but not insurmountable advantage at halftime during Thursday’s Mid-West Athletic Conference doubleheader against Danville Area Community College.
The Cobra women led 30-19 and the men 36-24 entering the locker room.
The following second-half performances from both groups are something they’ll want to duplicate as often as possible moving forward.
The No. 5 Parkland women permitted just two Jaguars points en route to a 74-21 victory, while the Cobra men outscored their opponents 53-34 as part of an 89-58 triumph.
“I’ve honestly never been part of something where we held a team to two points in a half,” said Parkland women’s coach Allie Lindemann, a former prep basketball standout at Champaign Central. “That goes to show our hard work and discipline. We’ve been harping on them defensively for a while now, so they really, from top to bottom, really bought in.”
The Cobras (8-0, 3-0 M-WAC) proved ruthless in their defensive execution, their only miscue — though it’s hard to call it that, given the result — coming when Danville product Anaiya Robinson converted a layup with 3 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Parkland forced DACC (3-5, 1-2) into four shot clock violations and 22 turnovers while continuing a recent trend of stifling stopping power. The Cobras’ last three enemies — all M-WAC teams — averaged barely 36 points.
“We have just been really focusing in practice on getting those stops and keeping our defense up the whole entire game,” said sophomore Ariana Booker, who finished with a game-best 17 points. “(We) really wanted to keep them to two or less points in the second half like we did.”
Parkland’s offense rarely faltered, as 11 of Lindemann’s 12 rostered athletes produced at least two points during a 63 percent shooting output.
“They’re not taking anything for granted right now,” Lindemann said. “They’re all very much united. They all live together. They’ve become close. They’ve become best friends. So that makes it easy, then, on the court.”
Booker banked 12 of her points in the second half and was joined in double figures overall by freshman Mady Harper (11 points) and sophomore Naomi McDaniel (10 points). All four local high school graduates playing for the Cobras added to the scoring as well: St. Joseph-Ogden alumnae Peyton Crowe (seven points) and Bree Trimble (four points), Tri-County product Kiersten Price-Wilson (six points) and Prairie Central grad Elly Haberkorn (six points).
“All of our players mostly can score, whether they’re coming off the bench or they’re starters,” Booker said. “So I think that makes us super special and super dangerous to other teams.”
Freshmen Riley Dowers, Allasha Alexander and Asaya Bulgin all produced four points to lead coach Erika Harris’ Jaguars in scoring.
In the men’s contest, Parkland coach Anthony Figueroa watched his Cobras (5-4, 1-1) bounce back nicely after they stumbled down the stretch of a six-point loss to John Wood last Sunday.
Parkland committed just seven turnovers versus coach DaJuan Gouard’s DACC (1-4, 1-1) squad and put 11 players in the scoring column.
“This is a conference win — and it’s Danville, so records don’t really come into play,” Figueroa said. “Our league overall is pretty even, so this is a huge win for us.”
Freshman Sean Ealy connected four times from beyond the arc in the first half alone on his way to 20 points. Figueroa said Ealy playing aggressively, as he did Thursday, is a recipe for Parkland to find success, and Ealy acknowledged this was something of a personal breakout effort.
“I struggled since I pretty much got on campus. First five games I struggled,” Ealy said. “(My teammates) knew what I could do, but a lot of the times I just wasn’t performing, so it just feels great for them to have my back.”
Four other Cobras joined Ealy in double figures scoring: sophomore Kelvin Swims (14 points), sophomore Kevin Bishop II (12 points), freshman Savon Wykle (12 points) and redshirt freshman Jamil Hardaway (11 points).
Like the Parkland women, the Cobra men fared well knocking down shots from all over the court and finished with a 58 percent mark in that department.
“We have some things that have been plaguing us offensively that we still need to work on. I don’t know if we did a better job of them in the second half or not,” Figueroa said. “We wanted to make sure we stayed focused on what was working ... and let the chips fall where they may.”
DACC, which was coming off a 78-41 thumping of Illinois Central, garnered 13 points from freshman Ahmoni Weston and 11 points from freshman Lewis Richards. Danville product Daylen Davis-Williams — the Jaguars’ only sophomore — finished with eight points.
Ealy said what transpired in Parkland’s previous game had the Cobras itching to prove they could play better.
“Against John Wood, we pretty much blew a 16-point lead,” Ealy said. “We just wanted to get the win bad.”