NORMAL – After pitching a first-quarter shutout, Normal High School countered every Eisenhower move to secure a 53-34 nonconference basketball victory on Tuesday.
The Ironmen, led by Jim Leone’s 13 points and 10 rebounds, improved to 11-11 while Eisenhower fell to 7-15.
Normal coach Dave Witzig didn’t expect his defense to notch its first quarter-length shutout of the season to go up 14-0 after the Panthers had pushed No. 9-state ranked Springfield Lanphier into overtime before losing, 80-76, on Friday.
“They were coming in playing well,” said Witzig, whose team dominated the glass, 28-14.
While the Panthers missed nine shots and committed four turnovers the first period, the Ironmen made six of their first nine shots beginning with back-to-back 3-pointers by Myles Smith, who finished with nine points.
Eisenhower finally scored on Julian Jones 3-pointer with 7:00 left in the second quarter and made it to halftime down, 25-12. Stymied by 31 percent field goal shooting, the Panthers never made a run of more than five points the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Normal shot 56.7 percent from the field as 10 men scored. A blizzard of crisscrossing Ironmen passes added up to 18 assists on 21 field goals, eight of which were 3-pointers.
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“That’s just a great example of sharing the ball,” Witzig said.
The ball repeatedly found Leone open and he obliged by making 5 of 8 shots, including three 3-pointers.
“We just wanted to get a lot of ball reversals and good ball movement,” Leone said. “Just kind of spread their zone out. My teammates did a good job of putting me in position to make the plays.
“We don’t have any pressure on one guy just because we don’t really have a go-to guy. Everybody chips in and that makes basketball a lot easier.”
Nothing came easy for the Panthers, whose top scorer was Yansyn Taylor with nine points followed by K.T. Graves with seven.
“Evidently (Friday) took all our juice,” said Eisenhower coach Rodney Walker. “Guys came out beyond flat. There’s no excuse for that. You’ve got to get yourself psyched up. You have to look at yourself in the mirror and get yourself prepared and ready.”