Jonathan Ireland’s career game not enough for Danville | Sports


DANVILLE – Junior guard Jonathan Ireland has essentially been a non-factor for the Danville Vikings during their 7-game losing streak.

The 6-foot-3 sniper had scored just 22 points and made just six 3-pointers in his team’s struggles since an overtime win over the Urbana Tigers on Dec. 17, 2021. Ireland had even lost its starting role for the Vikings.

But on Friday night Ireland returned to the starting lineup for Danville and he had a career night with 32 points and a possible school-best nine 3-pointers – certainly the most for the Vikings in the 20 recent seasons.

“Johnny stepped up. He had a good week or a good practice, more aggressive where he carried through to the game,” Danville coach Durrell Robinson said. “It’s the type of game I’ve been expecting from Johnny all year, because that’s what he’s capable of doing for this team.

“Give him credit. He held on. I put him back in the starting lineup tonight and he responded really well.”

Unfortunately, Ireland’s individual achievement amounted to victory for the Vikings.

Peoria Manual shot a remarkable 53%, including 10 of 12 shooting in the fourth quarter, as the Rams left Danville with an 80-73 triumph in the Big 12 Conference contest.

“It’s all about defense,” Robinson said. “We gave up 80 points and we’re not going to beat anyone giving up 80 points. Defense is an effort and we’re not trying hard enough.

“It doesn’t matter what style of defense we play – man or zone – we don’t give the kind of effort it takes to win.”

Not only is the 80 points a season high for Manuel, who improves to 9-9 overall and 3-3 in the Big 12, but it’s only the fifth time this season that Danville, who has fallen to 6-10 overall and 2-5 in the Big 12, even gave up over 70. Unsurprisingly, the Vikings are now 1-4 in those games with their only win in the season-opening 83-78 triumph on Belleville Althoff.

“Our motto is outplay everyone and we don’t outplay anyone when we give up 80 points,” Robinson said. “That’s why we’re running out of time in these games. Once we get back to that style of play, everything will be fine.”

So what was different for Ireland on Friday night.

“I was hitting in the warm-ups and that translated into the game,” he said. “I knew playing Manual was going to be a tough game. I just wanted to try to give us a lead.”

Even with Ireland scoring a team-high 14 points in the first half, the Vikings still found themselves trailing the Rams 37-31.

But that’s when Ireland really upped their shootout. He made his last six 3-pointers in the second half as Danville went 50-46 with 2 minutes and 27 seconds left in the third quarter on Ireland’s fourth 3-pointer in the third quarter.

“I just wanted to keep shooting. It felt like it was automatic,” Ireland said.

Manual, who closed the third quarter with a 56-52 lead thanks to a 10-2 run, was not going to let Ireland continue to open up in the fourth quarter. The Rams began to deny him the ball in the final eight minutes of the game, holding him to just two more 3-pointers.

Also, Danville’s defense was unanswered for 6-foot-7 Manual forward Idius Robertson, who scored 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to go along with 28 points from Gerron Tapps.

“Our defense really seemed to slow down in the second half,” Ireland said as the Rams shot 63% after half-time. “They were a good all-round team who were difficult to keep.”

The Vikings could match that hot shot from the Rams because Danville only made 10 of 29 shots from inside the 3-point arc, including missing about 10 shots from close range.

“It’s the tiny things that we try to get them to pay attention to,” Robinson said. “We have no room for error and the biggest difference in this game was those lay-ups.

“We did a terrible finishing job. We had golden chances, but we just didn’t finish.”

Robinson noted that Danville practiced every day finishing on the 2ft edge and going hard.

“We just left too many shots right on the edge,” he said. “And they didn’t.”

Ireland, who admitted he even missed a layup in the first quarter, said the Vikings did not play on contact in a physical game.

Could it be because the Vikings haven’t won in six weeks or 42 days?

“We started strong, then we crashed at the end,” he said. “I think it’s because we want to win too much. We’re tired and we’re just falling at the end of the game.

Danville will look to end his losing streak today when he travels to face Urbana in a non-conference game. The JV game is scheduled for 1 p.m. with college tentatively set for 2:30 p.m.

Back on Dec. 17, the Vikings beat the Tigers 73-71 on a game-winning field goal by Martez Rhodes.

“We’ve got four games in four days, so hopefully we’ll continue to improve over that time,” Robinson said, noting Danville will face Chicago Longwood on Sunday and then Rantoul on Monday.

In Friday’s junior varsity contest, Manual beat Danville 51-37.

The Vikings were trailed by Corey Moore with 14, while Persiris Mennenfield contributed with 13.


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