Normal Community cruises past Palatine in Class 4A semifinal

Mar. 8—Class 4A semifinal: Normal Community 58, Palatine 38

The top player was ... Normal Community senior , although not without a challenge from senior teammate Braylon Roman. Webber put up a double-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks, controlling the paint on both ends of the floor from start to finish. Roman led all scorers with 19 points and drilled a trio of three-pointers. Palatine senior Connor May also showed out with 17 points, making 8 of 14 shots.

The key moment was ... as soon as the Ironmen stepped on the court to start the second half. It was tied at 13 after the first quarter, and Normal Community only had a five-point lead at halftime. The Ironmen proved they were the better team in the opening minutes of the third quarter, going on a 10-0 run to take a 37-22 lead. Palatine's first basket of the second half didn't come until the first four minutes had already gone by.

By the numbers ... Palatine coach Eric Millstone said it would have been a tremendous help if his players were 4 inches taller. Webber, Noah Cleveland and Kobe Walker are all 6-foot-10 and 235-plus pounds, and they control everything inside for the Ironmen. Comparatively, May is the Pirates' tallest player at 6-foot-7. On top of that, the Ironmen's guards are a few inches taller than Palatine's. Normal Community used its height advantage to win the rebound battle 32-13 and wear out its opponent.

What Normal Community said ... "There was more chatter and talk about our team starting in the summer because of how tall we were. We kind of had a target on our back all season. We felt that, and there were moments where we didn't play as well as we'd liked, but we played an awesome schedule in our conference to prepare us for games like this. It's taken us a while to play the defense we want to play, but the last four or five weeks, we've been playing unbelievable defense and making it hard for teams to score. We're playing our best basketball at the right time." — coach Dave Witzig

What Palatine said ... "We give up about 4 or 5 inches on the back line across the board. You see them on film, but it's just a different beast in person. ... I've got to give all the credit in the world to our guys for putting their nose in there and really battling. There's no quit in these guys, but at some point, the laws of physics take over. You've got to give Normal a ton of credit for just using what they have." — coach Eric Millstone