Boys basketball: Hoffman drains Eagles for third time

Kyler Hoffman found himself cut off from the three-point line in the right corner.

Rantoul Township High School junior guard Tanner McLain blocked the path beyond the arc for the senior guard from Prairie Central late in the first half of Friday's 68-59 victory for the visiting Hawks.

No problem.

Hoffman kept his pivot foot alive, countered back towards the baseline, drove hard to the basket and deftly flicked in a left-handed layup.

"It was wide open on the baseline," Hoffman said. "They were expecting me to go the other way and playing in, so I went in with the left hand. I'm not very big, so it's kind of nice when I can get in there and get a few points."

Even when RTHS stifled the 5-foot-9-inch Hoffman from causing havoc from 3-point range, he still found ways to hurt the Eagles.

Hoffman poured in a team-high 26 points on the strength of six 3-pointers to overcome a career-high 33 points from Rantoul junior Johnny Jones in a matchup of dueling Corn Belt Conference guards with different skill sets.

"We still have to yell at him to shoot some," Prairie Central head coach Rick Schertz said. "He played really well for us tonight, and he's played well lately. We do a lot of shooting in practice, and that obviously is helping him and helping our team."

The Hawks (12-7, 5-4 Corn Belt) received solid contributions from senior forward Addison Bounds (16 points, six rebounds) and senior guard Lane Maurer (11 points) in making sure Prairie Central beat the Eagles (10-12, 4-6) for the third time this season.

"Everybody's got somebody, for whatever reason, that they have a struggle with, and I guess this year for Rantoul, it's us," Schertz said. "For whatever reason, we match up well with Rantoul."

The Eagles had trimmed an eight-point halftime deficit of 35-27 and tied the game at 41 with 3:55 left in the third quarter after an offensive rebound putback by senior forward Weylin Williams.

But the Hawks went on a 13-2 run during the next five minutes to increase their lead to 54-43 with 5:52 left in the fourth quarter after Bounds converted a drive to the basket.

Hoffman hit a 3-pointer from the right wing, his sixth and final one of the game, during the run to push Prairie Central's lead to 50-43 in the first 20 seconds of the fourth quarter.

The Hawks went a perfect 6-of-6 from the field in the fourth quarter to stave off RTHS, which shot 2-of-10 from three-point range in the fourth to quell any hopes of a win.

"We kind of shot too many 3-pointers and shot them too fast," Jones said. "We weren't running any offensive sets and going a little bit too fast. I knew they couldn't stop me going to the hole, but I kind of settled for too many shots. My gameplan coming in was to attack them."

Jones did so multiple times off the dribble. Hoffman did once, but caused fits for the Eagles with his sweet outside shooting.

"They're a tough team," RTHS head coach Brett Frerichs said. "They didn't miss very much. You put so much emphasis on Bounds ... and their guards are smart players. They know where to spot up on the floor. They knocked down some big shots against us."
mdaniels@rantoulpress.com

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