BLOOMINGTON — Two-time defending champion Bloomington High School clinched at least a share of the title in the 48th annual Intercity Basketball Tournament with an 80-52 “running clock” victory over Central Catholic at Shirk Center on Saturday.
Southern Illinois recruit Chris Payton led the Purple Raiders with a game-high 17 points, all of which came in the first half.
“(The title) was something we were hoping for,” said BHS coach Micheal Mosley, whose team can win the crown outright on Monday.
The Raiders are the first team to earn at least a piece of three straight titles since BHS won or shared seven straight crowns between 2002 and 2009.
In earlier action Saturday, Milwaukee recruit C.J. Wilbourn scored a game-high 14 points for Normal Community in a 59-49 triumph over Normal West as the Ironmen improved to 3-1.
The tournament concludes Monday with Central (0-3) facing University High (1-2) at 6 p.m. and West (1-2) meeting BHS (3-0) at 7:30.
Payton’s final points came on a rebound dunk to make it 38-22 with 1:30 left in the second quarter. BHS went on to a 41-28 halftime lead before dominating the third quarter, 31-11, with the help of six 3-pointers. The Raiders finished with 11 3s.
“I think it was the most consistent performance that we’ve had so far,” said Payton, who also had six blocks and seven rebounds. “The defense was the best part of that (third) quarter. I don’t know what got into us, but we just decided that they were not going to get past us.
“(The title) is one small stepping stone on the path to get to state. It means a lot, obviously, in the moment, but we can’t take too much for granted. We’ve still got to come back on Monday and get the job done.”
The Raiders also got 14 points from Landon Moore, 12 from Caleb Donaldson and 11 from Donzell Johnson while going up 72-39 after three quarters to force a running clock.
BHS made 11 of 16 shots in the third period.
“When shots are falling, it makes it a lot easier,” Mosley said. “(Payton) is playing within himself. He’s such an intimidating presence on the interior.”
Tommy Nelson led Central with 16 points while Samuel Tallen and Cole Davis had 12 apiece.
“They’ve got weapons in every spot, not only the five guys they start, but the guys they bring off the bench,” said Saint coach Jason Welch. “Tonight they made almost everything they shot.”
In an opening half featuring three ties and seven lead changes, Dishon Hall II scored eight points as the Ironmen built a 25-22 lead by intermission.
The second half brought four more lead changes before Jimmy Gillespie’s 3-pointer put NCHS ahead to stay at 40-38 with 7:11 left. The Ironmen never enjoyed breathing room until scoring the game’s final five points.
“West-Normal games are always a struggle,” said NCHS coach Dave Witzig. “I thought West really shot the three well (making six). They did a good job of penetrating and finding shooters. Their guys were hitting big shots for them.”
The Ironmen were hitting big shots, too, as guard Daylen Boddie finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds and Hall had 12 points and seven boards. NCHS outshot the Wildcats from the field, .512 to .346.
“I thought we did some things better defensively than we have in the tournament,” said West coach Brian Cupples, whose team was outrebounded, 34-20. “We just don’t rebound very well.”
Cole Hernandez led West with 12 points and six boards while Alec McGinnis chipped in 11 points and Evan Hutson 10.
Wilbourn had seven points during a 13-6 run to go up, 46-39, with 5:40 left.
“They play us very well,” Wilbourn said of the Wildcats. “Offensively, they are very patient.”