Chargers fall to state-ranked Ironmen

Jan. 10—CHAMPAIGN — Centennial boys' basketball faced its toughest test of the season on Tuesday night.

A physical defensive showing helped the Chargers in the early stages of Tuesday's tussle with Class 4A No. 4 Normal Community at Coleman Carrodine Gym. Centennial trailed 24-16 at halftime, but couldn't make up the deficit in the second half, with the Ironmen pulling away for a 69-41 win in Big 12 Conference play.

"I thought we played pretty good defensively but they're just so big and strong and patient with their game," Centennial coach Tim Lavin said. "They got us in foul trouble and made it difficult."

Chances presented themselves throughout the game for the Chargers (11-6, 3-1 Big 12), who led twice during the first half and hung within 15 points of the Ironmen until the final 50 seconds of the third quarter.

Sophomore Jadin Schilb connected on a three-pointer 30 seconds into the first quarter to put Centennial on the board first. Offense was harder to come by for the rest of the half, though, and Centennial went scoreless for 5:10 in the second quarter after entering the frame with an 11-9 deficit.

"They're a huge team," Schilb said. "They play together, they have (a) deep roster. It was good experience, I hope we learn from it. We have another game on Friday to look forward to."

The Chargers played much of the second quarter without the 6-foot-5 Schilb, who picked up two early fouls, and 6-4 junior forward Voldy Makabu, who left with an injury in the first quarter before returning late in the second quarter.

"Credit to them, but we also missed some screen outs," Lavin said. "We weren't playing the post like we wanted to play and then in the third period, they just exploited everything and took control."

O'Neil Johnson struck first for the Chargers with a three-pointer 50 seconds into the third quarter, but Normal Community (15-1, 5-0) made use of its size — none of the Ironmen's starters are shorter than 6-foot-4 — and did not allow consecutive baskets for the rest of the quarter en route to a 48-27 lead.

"Centennial had a great game plan against us," Normal Community coach Dave Witzig said. "This is never an easy place for us to get a win. Our second half, we played really well. We were able to get some turnovers and fast breaks that really helped us push the lead."

Schilb and Kellen Foltz paced the Chargers with nine points apiece while Johnson added eight points, including two three-pointers.

Noah Cleveland and Niko Newsome scored 12 points apiece for the Ironmen and Dexter Niekamp chipped in nine points.

Next up for Centennial: cross-town rival Champaign Central at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Combes Gym.

"You know how those games are, they're always fun," Lavin said. "We just have to be solid in what we're doing and not get caught up in the crowd. We've got a couple guys injured and hopefully they're good by then. It should be fun to watch."