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When the offense is crisp, the Rantoul Township High School boys basketball team follows suit with its defensive play.
When it isn't, like during Friday's home opener against Bloomington Central Catholic? The Eagles struggle.
Such was the case in a decisive third quarter that turned the tide against Bloomington Central Catholic.
Rantoul lost its Corn Belt Conference opener 75-64 to the Saints and extended its losing streak to three games.
The Eagles missed their first 10 shots of the second half and could never recover after that.
"When a lot of guys aren't hitting their shots, that carries over to the defensive side of the floor," RTHS head coach Brett Frerichs said. "That's what we pride ourselves on is our defense. There was still a lot of standing around and not running any offense. There was no ball movement. It was pretty easy defensively (for Bloomington Central Catholic)."
The Saints (2-3, 1-0 Corn Belt) opened the third quarter on a 9-0 run to take a 41-33 lead after RTHS led 33-32 at halftime. The Eagles never cut their deficit to fewer than four points the rest of the game. Bloomington Central Catholic sophomore guard Jake Reinhart led all scorers with 25 points, including 19 in the second half.
"He hit some shots, but not only did he hit some shots, he played pretty well on the defensive end," BCC head coach Jason Welch said. "We needed somebody to step up, and Jake did that tonight."
Rantoul junior guard Talon Hardin led the Eagles (3-3, 0-1) with 19 points and five assists, but the third quarter woes were too much for Rantoul to overcome. The Eagles trailed 54-46 at the end of the quarter, and faced a 61-48 deficit with 5:04 left in the game after junior forward Jake Hester scored inside.
A 3-pointer by Hardin on the right wing — one of four in the game by the junior guard — trimmed the Eagles' deficit to 66-59 with 2:30 left, but the Saints made 7-of-8 from the free throw line in the final 60 seconds to hold off RTHS.
"We just didn't come out to play (in the third quarter)," Hardin said. "We've just got to get over that hump. We just need to mature. We've got to get used to not having those letdowns because we seem to have one every game in the third or fourth quarter."
Junior guards Tanner McLain (14 points) and Josh Oliveras (14 points) contributed offensively and senior forward Greg Morrow added 11 rebounds to go along with four points, but he did not score after producing the game's first two baskets for the Eagles. The Saints' shooting in the second half — 15-of-28 (54 percent) and 26-of-53 (49 percent) for the game — played a large reason in why the Eagles walked off their own court with a loss in their home opener.
"They had us on our heels all night," Frerichs said. "There was still a lot of standing around and not running our offense. There was no ball movement. It was pretty easy for them defensively. They had everyone back, and it showed. It showed they were the more experienced team."