BLOOMINGTON — Following orders has put the Normal Community High School basketball team in front.
That was especially true during a 55-52 victory over University High that clinched the outright title for the Ironmen, who improved to 3-0 on day four of the 48th annual Intercity Tournament at Shirk Center on Saturday.
“What I really like so far about this group is they are trying to do what we’re asking them to do,” said NCHS coach Dave Witzig. “Every game against these teams there is a different challenge.”
Saturday’s challenge was getting the ball past defender Angelo Bernal to 6-foot-6 sophomore Zachary Cleveland, who still managed to provide 18 points and eight rebounds for the Ironmen.
“U High did a great job,” Witzig said. “They switched every screen. They really flooded the paint on Zach.”
In Saturday’s second game, Normal West, perhaps sluggish from Friday’s three-overtime loss to Central Catholic, fell to Bloomington, 67-44.
The tournament concludes on Monday with NCHS (3-0) meeting Normal West (1-2) at 6 p.m. and Central Catholic (1-2) battling U High (1-2) at 7:30 p.m. BHS finished the tournament at 2-2.
NCHS-U High: The Ironmen seemed to have everything under control after Mitchell Sauder’s three-point play gave them a 44-35 lead with 2:57 left.
“This summer it was one of our big goals (to win Intercity) even though it is close to the beginning of the season,” Sauder said. “It doesn’t matter a whole lot as far as the end of the season, but it’s something we had in mind that we wanted to win.”
Sauder finished with a career-high 11 points.
“He got on the floor for his defense, but now he’s adding some big shots for us,” Witzig said.
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After Joe Brown scored five points within 11 seconds and Alex Wood sank a 12-footer, U High was within 44-42 with 2:12 to go.
NCHS stayed in front by sinking 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch and 16 of 20 for the game. Jimmy Gillispie’s steal and two free throws made it 50-45 with :27.3 left. Griffin McCluskey sank four free throws the final :13.3.
Wood, who had 11 fourth-quarter points, finished with 21 while Brown and Drew Wollenschlager added 10 apiece.
Cleveland finished 6 of 15 from the field.
“I thought we did a good job on Zach,” U High coach Andrew McDowell said. “He’s just a good player and he hit some contested shots. I thought between (Joe) Brown, Kaden (Stork) and Angelo, we made his life tough.”
U High’s press the final 2:42 forced NCHS into three of its 14 turnovers.
“We’d been hesitant to try to get into something like that because we were in foul trouble,” McDowell said. “At the end, we had an opportunity to speed them up. It really gave us a chance to win the game.”
Normal West-BHS: After BHS coach Justin Walker detected a lack of effort in Friday’s loss to NCHS, the Purple Raiders responded by grabbing leads of 18-6, 28-13 and 47-35 at the quarter breaks.
“It was a heck of a job for these guys to respond like that,” Walker said. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
BHS had 11 players score led by DeMarco Clayton’s 13 points and 11 apiece from TJ Barger and Diontay Griffin. Clayton and Barger each had three 3-pointers.
“Landon (Moore) carried us the first couple games and the scouting report got out there that he put some work into his game,” Walker said. “When you get out in transition, everybody can get buckets.”
Corey Walker scored 13 points for West, which got as close as 47-38 in the second half after a Walker three-point play with 7:47 left.
“I think we weren’t prepared for how physical Bloomington was,” said West coach Ed Hafermann. “One of our game plans was getting the ball inside and we struggled to get positioning early on. They put a lot of ball pressure on us on the outside (to force 12 first-half turnovers).”
Contact Randy Sharer at (309) 820-3405. Follow him on Twitter: @Pg_sharer