NORMAL — While both teams put effort into their rivalry game on Thursday, Normal Community High School put the ball in the basket more efficiently than visiting Bloomington en route to a 58-46 victory.
NCHS played without head coach Marcus Mann, who received a rare postgame ejection after the Iron’s previous game against Peoria Notre Dame. Assistant coach Dave Feeney, a former NCHS head coach, filled in.
“It’s strange when your leader is not there,” Feeney said. “I think our kids were focused. That first quarter was maybe them wanting to do it too much.”
First-quarter 3-pointers by Bree O’Neal and Bett O’Neal helped BHS build a 16-10 lead. NCHS came to life by opening the second quarter with an 11-0 run featuring a Kylee Schneringer 3-pointer and eight points from Maya Wong to go up, 21-16.
“We ran the floor,” Feeney said. “It all starts with getting clean stops and clean boards to allow us to run the floor.”
Among those taking flight for NCHS was Evansville-recruit Abby Feit, who finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
“Abby Feit had an unbelievable game,” said Feeney, who also got a season-high-tying 15 points from Schneringer while Wong added 12. “Kylee, I think this might have been her best game of the year. We also went 12 for 12 from the free throw line which helped solidify some things.”
The Iron, ranked No. 9 in Class 4A, improved to 15-4 overall and 5-0 in the Big 12 Conference. BHS (9-8, 3-3) had hoped to avenge a 59-40 November loss to NCHS.
“We let them come out and own us (the first quarter),” Schneringer said. “We should have played our game. They had a lot of offensive rebounds the first quarter. We were making our shots more the second quarter.”
BHS coach Tom Whiting said getting and making good shots was the key early.
“We got all the shots we wanted,” he said. “We just missed shots (while going 2 of 9 the second quarter).”
A key sequence for Whiting came when NCHS got within 16-15 after a steal and a Schneringer 3-pointer before BHS missed a layup and Wong answered with a short jumper to put the Iron in front to stay.
“We did well defending the threes, but they got twos,” Whiting said. “We just missed some layups and that kills you.”
NCHS shot 50 percent from the field on the way to a 36-23 halftime lead, but cooled to 41.5 percent by the final buzzer. The Iron lead reached 56-38 with 1:59 left before BHS ended with an 8-2 run.
Bett O’Neal led BHS with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Ellie Weltha added 11 points and eight boards. The Purple Raiders were outrebounded, 34-29, but got the best of a 12-11 difference in turnovers.