BLOOMINGTON — When the Normal Community High School basketball team forced Bloomington to raise its level of play, the Purple Raiders took off to a 66-57 victory as the 47th Intercity Tournament concluded at Shirk Center on Monday.
With a 4-0 record, BHS defended its title while NCHS had to settle for second at 3-1. Normal West (2-2) wound up third thanks to a 48-44 victory over Central Catholic (0-4). University High finished fourth at 1-3.
“They are an exciting team,” said BHS coach Micheal Mosley of the Ironmen. “We knew they were going to throw a lot at us.”
NCHS threw a 14-2 run at the Raiders to get within 53-49 with 4:20 left, but BHS got going again thanks to a Chris Payton dunk and a Patrick Fisher 14-footer.
Payton finished with three dunks, 20 points, eight rebounds and three blocks to negate the 19-point, six-rebound effort by C.J. Wilbourn of NCHS.
“People are going to know by the end of this year who Wilbourn is,” Mosley said. “He’s really skilled with the basketball and he made plays.”
The Ironmen, who were hoping to regain a title they last won in 2014, fell behind 13-5, but stayed within reach until a Fisher 3-pointer and a Payton free throw put BHS on top 25-16.
A fastbreak layup by C.J. Christian, who finished with 12 points, sparked a 9-0 half-ending run for NCHS, which got back-to-back layups from Daylen Boddie before Wilbourn drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 25-25 at intermission.
“We felt we were fortunate to be 25-all at halftime,” said NCHS coach Dave Witzig. “We felt they played a lot better than us and we were tied at half.”
BHS opened the third quarter with back-to-back three-point plays by Chris Pugh and Donzell Johnson. The Raiders went on to win that quarter, 20-10. Johnson finished with 16 points and Fisher had 15.
NCHS outshot BHS from the field, 51 percent to 39 percent, but got outrebounded, 36-26, and lost the turnover battle, 23-12.
“We didn’t play how we wanted to, but we got the job done,” said Payton, who was guarded by Wilbourn. “He stopped me a lot in the first half. I had to find a way to play differently.”
The Wildcats received 14 points apiece from Shea Cupples and Nate Duckworth while 6-foot-9 Division I prospect Francis Okoro provided 13 points, 10 rebounds and one block.
“We needed to limit (Okoro’s) touches,” said Central coach Jason Welch. “We had to be quick. That (13 points) was a number we could live with. Unfortunately, we had a hard time scoring.”
Normal West had trouble finding Jack Gilmore, who led Central Catholic with 22 points. Tommy Nelson chipped in 11.
“We’re just trying to get timing offensively,” said Normal West coach Brian Cupples, who saw Central pull within 47-44 on a Luke Yoder 3-pointer with 24.2 seconds left.
“I’m glad this tournament is over with. Now we can go get three days of practice in and try to get ready to play a game on Friday. We really see what we need to work on.”
The Saints were held to three points in the second quarter and trailed at halftime, 23-16.
“Not many 2A schools get to go against these type of people (in this tournament),” Welch said. “We’re very disappointed we didn’t come out with some wins. We’re certainly happy with the way we competed.”