CHAMPAIGN — But for a miss on his easiest shot of the night, a layup at the end of the game, it was a perfect night for Bloomington senior Caleb Donaldson, who made 13 shots, three beyond the arc, and four free throws.
For the Moline Maroons, it turned out to be a perfectly unsettling night, unable to make shots in the first half and unable to keep up in the second as the Purple Raiders advanced to the Class 4A Champaign Centennial Regional championship game with an 87-69 win.
The 18-point loss was Moline’s second worst of the season. Danville, the regional’s top seed and Bloomington’s opponent on Friday, beat the Maroons by 29 in the season’s second game.
Bloomington, the No. 5 seed, will take an 18-11 record in its rematch with Danville, which won 81-78 on Dec. 7. Moline, the No. 3 seed, bows out with a 23-7 mark to go with a Western Big Six title share.
Moline coach Sean Taylor said he knew the Maroons were in for a battle, given the Purple Raiders’ strength of schedule.
“We knew we were in for a tough matchup,” he said. “We needed to play well, and just didn’t play well enough.”
The Maroons also had no way to stopping Donaldson. The 6-foot-5 guard was 7-for-7 shooting at halftime, making all three of his 3-pointers. He added seven more in a row until the layup miss, then put in one more to finish with a career-high 33 points.
“There must be something about this gym for him,” Bloomington coach Michael Mosley said of Donaldson. “His previous high was 27, in this same gym.”
Of course, Mosley intends to tease Donaldson for the miss.
“I will,” he said, “but I didn’t know he hadn’t missed one. It didn’t seem like it. He’s such an incredible person; it couldn’t happen to a better kid.”
When Donaldson wasn’t keeping the Purple Raiders a safe distance from the Maroons on the scoreboard, his teammates were. Bloomington had four in double figures — Nate Duckworth with 17, Landon Moore with 15 and Donnell Johnson with 12 — and the fifth starter led the team in rebounds, Griffin Moore grabbing eight.
By comparison, the Maroons just couldn’t make shots in the first half, hitting 9-of-31. They were 8-of-21 in the third quarter before ending with a 30-point fourth.
“We didn’t make, and they didn’t miss,” said Taylor. “Plus, they shot the 3 extremely well,” hitting 10-of-17 for the game.
“That is when we had to chase, and they are quick and good with the ball. We just dug too much of a hole.”
Bloomington jumped out early to a 15-3 lead. Though it as 15-10 after the first quarter, the Purple Raiders got back up by 18, at 34-16, with two minutes left In the first half.
“Now we are in a bind,” the Moline coach noted. “Our team doesn’t want to be in a position to chase. And there have not been many games where we have had to do that.”
Deonte Billups poured in 32 points to lead the Maroons, but Bloomington made that tough for him to build. Moline’s all-time leading scorer missed his first four shots of the first and second quarter and first three of the third. Outside of that, he was 11-for-17 on field goals. He added 9-of-11 free throws.
Also in double figures for the Maroons was Drew Wiemers. Held to two first-half points, he finished with 12. Brody Harding added nine points and Treyton Lamphier had seven to round out the four senior starters.