PEORIA — Different venue. Different circumstances. Same painful result.
Nearly a month after dispatching Normal Community High School at NCHS, Moline's repeat performance Wednesday night carried considerably more consequences than just a nonconference regular season loss.
This time, a 53-47 verdict in the Class 4A Danville Regional meant the season is over for the Ironmen.
"We had some great moments from these guys this season," NCHS coach Dave Witzig said afterward. "I knew we'd play hard. It just came down to a few plays at the end, and they (Moline) made just a few more than we did."
Season scoring leader Deonte Billups and senior reserve Harrison Bey-Bieu each tallied 15 points as fourth-seeded and 10th-ranked Moline (21-7) advanced to Friday's 7 p.m. championship against top-seeded and fourth-ranked regional host Danville (26-2).
Fifth-seeded Normal Community closed 20-9 in a semifinal moved to neutral site Peoria Richwoods for more reasonable travel considerations.
In Moline's 54-40 triumph Feb. 3 in Normal, the Maroons got 20 points from Drew Wiemer and 18-of-20 foul shooting while NCHS played without 6-7 CJ Wilbourn (concussion)
This time, the foul-plagued Wiemers had four points while Wilbourn had nine points and eight rebounds.
Bey-Bieu, however, scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter and Moline went 18 of 27 from the line, including 8 of 10 in the final 50 seconds to keep NCHS at bay.
"(Normal) came at us hard, but we knew they would," Moline coach Sean Taylor said. "Dave's kids always play hard and they play the right way. Fortunately, we we're able to get a little separation and made our free throws at the end."
Tied at 17 at halftime, Moline led 30-27 when Bey-Bieu followed in Billups' miss at the third quarter buzzer. Point guard Brody Harding then scored on a backdoor layup on the first possession of the fourth quarter to make it a seven-point lead.
"That was huge," Taylor said. "Points were pretty hard to come by up until that point and that gave us a little breathing room."
The margin grew to 41-32 with 3:10 remaining, and NCHS never got closer than five again, the last time 50-45 on Daylon Boddie's trey with 15 seconds left.
Boddie led NCHS with 15 points, but NCHS shot just 35 percent (14 of 40).
"We struggled to score at times,. but credit them. They're a well-seasoned playoff team" Witzig said. "We just came up a little bit short."
Moline shot 43.9 percent (18 of 41) and held a 24-20 rebound edge with Billups and Jeff McInnis grabbing eight apiece.