By Steve Robinson | December 2, 2018 - 10:59 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

NORMAL – For one quarter, the first quarter of Normal Community High School ’s Big 12 Conference matchup against unbeaten Peoria Notre Dame, it looked like the Ironmen had the chance to keep pace and outpace their guests from the River City . But it only took a 9-0 run to start the second quarter for the Irish to overturn that advantage and stay in front of their hosts en route to a 57-45 victory.

It took nearly three minutes before any player on either side could penetrate the opposing defense to score the game’s opening bucket, but senior center Evan Pogge did so at the 5:13 mark putting NCHS (3-2) ahead, 2-0. That became a 5-0 run for the Ironmen when senior guard Blake Foster’s trey went through the hoop at 4:25. Peoria ND hit back-to-back unanswered deuces from junior Connor Dillon and junior Ben Kouri to close the score to 5-4 at the 2:35 mark. A three-point play, including a free throw by senior forward Christian Wilbourne doubled the score for NCHS, 8-4. But a trey from Kouri closed out the first quarter, with the Ironmen holding a one-point lead, 8-7.

From the opening of the second quarter, though, Peoria ND (4-0) went on a 9-0 scoring blitz which featured deuces from junior Declan Dillon, Connor Dillon, and senior Matt Pudik, topped off by a trey from senior Joe Gustafson, putting PND in front, 16-8 with 4:27 left in the half, prompting Ironmen head coach Dave Witzig to call a timeout. A trey by Ironmen senior guard Drew Kagel at the 3:17 mark closed that lead to 16-11, but the half ended on back-to-back unanswered buckets by Connor Dillon and Pudik, putting PND in front, 20-11.

Foster hit a trey to open the third quarter for NCHS, putting the Ironmen within six, 20-14, but Pudik replied with a trey of his own, putting PND up, 23-14. Foster hit another trey, closing the score within six, 23-17, but back-to-back treys by Pudik and Connor Dillon gave PND a 12-point lead, 29-17, before NCHS senior guard Daylen Boddie added a three to help keep the home team within nine, 29-20, with 3:49 left in the period. Wilbourne added a deuce to put the Ironmen within seven, 29-22.

Another Connor Dillon deuce and free throw by Kouri gave PND a 10-point lead, 32-22, with 3:02 left in the quarter. NCHS got five unanswered points from a Wilbourne rebound and a trey from Boddie pushing the Ironmen within five, 32-27, with 1:25 left in the quarter, but the Irish closed out the quarter on a 6-0 run thanks to back-to-back unanswered treys from Gustafson, putting PND in front, 38-27, going into the fourth quarter.

Senior forward Dishon Hall II’s deuce opened the fourth quarter for NCHS to help close PND’s lead, 38-29, with 6:41 remaining. Between free throws by Kouri and junior Declan Dillon for PND, Hall hit a deuce, but PND remained in front by 10, 41-31. Pogge and Wilbourne went back-to-back to the free throw line courtesy of fouls from PND, going a combined 3-for-4 to pull NCHS within seven, 41-34, prompting visiting head coach Tom Lacher to call a timout with 3:21 remaining.

Coming out of that timeout, however, two NCHS fouls – including a technical foul called on Foster – sent Kouri to the line to answer for the technical and Declan Dillon to answer for the game penalty. Combined, the pair went 2-for-3, and were followed by a basket by Connor Dillon to put PND up, 45-37. Connor Dillon squeezed a deuce in between two sets of Wilbourne free throws, Wilbourne going a combined 4-for-4, but PND owned a 47-41 lead with 1:59 left in the contest. Wilbourne fouled Declan Dillon, who went 1-for-2 at the line, putting PND up, 48-41 with 1:55 left. Boddie hit a deuce at the 1:45 mark to keep NCHS within five, 48-43. The margin and time remaining prompted Witzig to call timeout.

But coming out of timeout, NCHS fouls sent Gustafson, Declan Dillon, and Kouri to the free throw line where they went a combined 5-for-6 allowing the visitors to restore a 10-point lead, 53-43, with 56.7 seconds left. A Wilbourne put-back shot helped pull NCHS within eight, 53-45, but fouls called on Boddie and Foster sent Gustafson and Declan Dillon back to the free throw line where they went a combined 4-for-4 to help their team arrive at the final score.

Gustafson led PND in scoring with 14, followed by 12 from Connor Dillon, Kouri’s 11, and 10 each from Declan Dillon and Pudik. Wilbourne and Foster led the way for NCHS, scoring 13 points, and 12, respectfully, on the night.

PND’s Lacher complimented his coaching counterpart, Witzig, saying, “He’s a great coach. We figured we’d see some pressure, and we figured it would be Wilbourne at the top and get him where if he couldn’t score, he could at least facilitate some scores with the guys around him. They also had some guys who came off the bench and stepped up and knocked down some shots and made some plays. Wilbourne facilitating hurt us in the fourth quarter.”

“NCHS turned up turned up the defensive intensity on the parimeter,” Lacher said, adding his squad had not been exposed to that sort of defensive maneuvering during a Thanksgiving tourney the Irish played in.

“I’ve chosen for our team to play man-to-man whereas Notre Dame plays a 1-2-2 defense,” explained NCHS head coach Dave Witzig. “In the first half, we didn’t play very hard and that put us down, 20-11. We didn’t compete at a high level like we need to in the Big 12. You have to give Notre Dame credit. They came in here and they competed and got after it and it was a good win for them.”

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