NORMAL — Dishon Hall II might have shot an air ball on a free throw early in the third quarter Tuesday night. Unfazed, he calmly sank the next attempt.
“I just went back to basics,” he said.
About a minute later, the Normal Community High School senior forward got a steal and didn't come up empty. His first dunk as an Ironmen player got his teammates pumped up as NCHS went on to down Pekin, 51-32, in a nonconference basketball game.
“We've been playing a little rough right now,” said Hall. “I wanted to get us going and getting us playing fast and how we're used to playing.”
NCHS, coming off a lackluster 57-45 homecourt loss to Peoria Notre Dame last Friday, improved to 4-2. CJ Wilbourn paced the Ironmen with 16 points, while Hall, Blake Foster and Daylen Boddie added nine points each.
“Overall our energy was where it needed to be tonight,” said NCHS coach Dave Witzig. “I feel a lot better how hard we played. It was kind of a battle. It's hard to score inside against Pekin. They really pack it in and switch a lot and do a lot of things you don't see very often.
“We made just enough shots to keep them at bay, and we made it hard for them at our end to get real wide-open looks.”
Pekin (2-4) was held to 36 percent shooting from the field and committed 21 turnovers. The Dragons' 6-foot-7 Patrick Torrey, who had 23 points and 17 rebounds last Friday against Dunlap, was held to five points and nine rebounds.
“We had CJ and (Evan) Pogge to tag team him and get a good body on him every possession,” said Witzig.
NCHS didn't get much going inside while making six 3-pointers during the first half, but the Ironmen's defense stifled Pekin. The Ironmen took a 12-7 lead after the first quarter and then held the Dragons to three points in the second quarter while grabbing a 24-10 halftime lead.
Ironically, Notre Dame held NCHS to three second-quarter points last Friday.
Pekin staged a brief rally in the second half. The Dragons used a 10-2 run, capped by Justin Taphorn's 3-pointer, to draw within 31-24 with 6:20 left.
But Pogge's layup off a nice feed from Joseph Lippert and Wilbourn's 3-pointer stopped the Dragons' momentum. Then Hall's back-to-back layups helped extend the lead to 46-27 with 3:14 left.
The 6-3 Hall, who scored all his points in the second half, wanted it known he has dunked before during an AAU game.
“He (Hall) did a good job of getting some steals,” said Witzig. “He had some good energy tonight. He had a lot of deflections and was flying around. That's what we need him to do. He needs to be a good defensive stopper for us.”
NCHS, which shot 38.3 percent from the field and grabbed a 31-29 rebounding advantage, travels to face Champaign Central on Friday in a Big 12 Conference game.