CHAMPAIGN —Pryce Punkay had to include Khailieo Terry in Punkay’s latest interview request that transpired during the 2019-2020 Champaign Central boys’ basketball season.
Sure, both guys starred in Wednesday night’s 79-53 thumping of Danville at Combes Gym.
Punkay finished with a game-high 26 points and Terry contributed with 22 points.
But Punkay and Terry weren’t attached simply because of their latest statistics.
“Dynamic duo,” Punkay said with a smile.
Their back-and-forth banter affirms this label.
“Just chemistry,” the junior Terry began. “We’ve been together for two years.”
“Just hanging out at open gyms,” the senior Punkay followed. “Summer league, workouts.”
“I’m at his house every other day,” Terry continued. “We’ve just grown on each other.”
“Exactly,” Punkay finished. “Our moms are talking to each other right now.”
The family matriarchs had plenty to discuss as their sons sliced and diced the defense of the Vikings (9-6, 2-1 Big 12 Conference), who lost their third consecutive game.
Division I prospect Tevin Smith has been sidelined by injury for all three. Joining him in the latest setback was fellow Danville standout Nathanael Hoskins, who was dealing with an illness.
“We feel the pain of what Danville went through,” Maroons coach Jeff Finke said. “They know (and) we know you’ve got to play with what you have and (it’s) next man up. We have empathy, but we’re happy to get a win.”
Central (8-9, 1-3) spent its first 11 games missing either Terry or Punkay, so Finke’s crew is accustomed to working around key absences.
This also means the Maroons still are trying to gel at both ends of the floor. Punkay felt that happened Wednesday as Central snapped a two-game skid.
“It was important to get back on track,” Punkay said. “Also, getting a win, finally clicking with Leo and I ... just felt great out there.”
The Maroons set the tone by imposing their will on the glass. Their first three rebounds all were of the offensive variety and resulted in seven points.
Central ultimately outrebounded Danville 30-18 and garnered three and-one chances throughout the evening.
“I was hoping to play better defensively, which is what we hang out hats on,” first-year Vikings coach Durrell Robinson said. “I didn’t feel we competed well enough, and we didn’t rebound at all, either. Champaign Central’s a nice team, and they exposed us.”
Robinson wasn’t about to use the lack of Smith and Hoskins as an excuse for Wednesday’s collective performance.
He was left fuming by what he saw as active players portraying a mindset opposite what he preaches.
“We were selfish at times (Wednesday),” Robinson said, “which is something that I’m not going to tolerate because it’s all about the team first. Our motto is ‘We, not me.’ (Wednesday) a couple of them were on the me standard.”
Junior guard Devin Miles turned in 24 points to pace Danville, banking four three-pointers along the way. But he was the only Danville player in double figures. Four other Vikings hit exactly six points, with 6-foot-5 Robert Stroud bottled up after generating all of his scoring in the first eight minutes.
“Our focus was ... don’t give them the same opportunities that we got on the offensive end,” Punkay said. “Just try to limit their opportunities in general and contest all their shots from anywhere on the court.”
The Maroons received scoring contributions across the board, with nine different athletes boasting at least one made field goal.
Judd Wagner’s seven points was Central’s next-best mark behind Punkay and Terry. Punkay also praised Reece Jacobson for snatching “three or four offensive rebounds.”
“He just wanted it more than anyone else,” Punkay said. “That’s why he got them.”
This was the sort of triumph that could finally get the Maroons permanently headed in the correct direction. They don’t have a run of success longer than two in a row to date.
“For us, it’s early December still in terms of us figuring out what we’re going to do and who’s going to do it,” Finke said. “We competed well, and we want to say we would’ve competed regardless of who’s on the floor.”