CHAMPAIGN — Anthony Beane’s ability to deliver in clutch situations Tuesday gave the Normal Community High School basketball team a chance to claim a share of the Big 12 Conference lead by the end of the week.
After draining a crucial tie-breaking 3-pointer late in the third quarter, Beane converted a layup over three defenders off an in-bounds play with 25 seconds left to give the Ironmen a 53-50 victory over host Champaign Central.
“We knew in order for us to get into first place in conference we had to come in here and win,” said the Illinois State-bound Beane, who scored a game-high 17 points. “We just focused on defense and made sure we crashed the boards and kept them out of the paint.”
The win moved NCHS (16-7 overall) to 7-2 in the Big 12 heading into Friday’s game at league-leading Normal Community West. Champaign (13-8, 7-2) fell out of a first-place tie with the Wildcats (18-5, 8-1), who earned a 56-48 victory over Bloomington.
“The first half is what won it for us. The first 16 minutes gave us the lead and the confidence,” said NCHS coach Dave Witzig, whose team held a 31-16 halftime advantage. “We made enough plays in the end down the stretch in a conference rival’s gym.”
Callen Boddie added 12 points and Trevor Seibring finished with 10 points and seven rebounds for NCHS. Xavier Martin had 14 points to lead three Maroons in double figures.
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Martin’s basket off a feed from Corvon Butler pulled the Maroons to within a point with 2:17 left. Champaign had a chance to take the lead in the final minute, but Seibring drew a charging call against Butler under the Maroons’ basket.
NCHS avoided a potential turnover at midcourt when Witzig was awarded a timeout with 49 seconds left. On the in-bounds play, Beane caught a pass from Chase Robbins on the right side of the lane and made a layup over three defenders.
“Beane is a special player. The thing that he does so well that’s hard to defend at the high school level is his elevation,” said Champaign coach Scott Davis. “There aren’t too many 6-1 kids that can get up and shoot the ball the way he shoots it.”
Martin and Jordan Caroline scored eight points apiece in the third quarter as the Maroons charged back, tying the game at 35-35 on two Caroline free throws with 1:54 left in the period. Beane stemmed the rush with a pull-up 3.
“That lead evaporated in like three minutes. We did a great job of taking good shots in the first half but in the second half we got a little quick; their defense forced us into making quick decisions,” said Witzig.