Cleveland propels Ironmen to victory over Peoria High; Strong weekend fuels 3 game win streak


Kyle Gorman

Zach Cleveland (’22) and Jacob Janssen (’21) attempt to block a shot in a game against Central Catholic earlier this season. Strong interior defense helped the Ironmen hold Peoria High 11 points below their season average.

Junior Zachary Cleveland’s 25 points led the Ironmen to a 56-43 victory over the Peoria High Lions 5-5 (4-4) on Tuesday, Feb. 23. The win continued Normal Community’s dominance over the Lions, as the Ironmen are 7-0 vs. Peoria High since the Lions joined the Big 12 conference in 2014.

After taking a 3 point lead into the locker room, the Ironmen outscored Peoria High 18-4 in the 3rd quarter thanks to baskets by 6 different players. The run included a fast-break dunk by Cleveland, fueling the team’s growing momentum.

Joining Cleveland in double figures was junior Trey Redd, who finished with 12 points and 8 assists. The returning varsity starters from last season helped the Ironmen overcome an early 12-11 Peoria High lead by scoring all of the Ironmen’s 15 2nd quarter points.

Peoria High’s lone advantage in the game was at the free-throw line, where they converted 9-15 attempts, compared to Normal Community’s 4-4 shooting from the charity stripe.

Despite the disparity in free throw attempts, Normal Community controlled the paint on both ends of the floor. 19 assists facilitated open layups and two dunks by Cleveland, who also recorded 10 rebounds.

Peoria High struggled to infiltrate the Ironmen defense, having to face the likes of 6’6” Payton Weemer, 6’5” Tyler Dwinal, 6’7” Cleveland, and 6’9” Jacob Janssen when they did. The stout defense left the Lions with 0 assists and kept them 11 points below their season scoring average.

The win evened the Ironmen’s record to 5-5 (3-4) on the year, heading into the weekend.

Normal Community defeated Champaign Centennial 63-32 Friday night before beating Prairie Central by a score of 62-44 on Saturday to put them at 7-5 (4-4). Cleveland led the Ironmen in scoring both games, dropping 23 against Champaign Centennial and 17 against the Hawks. Redd averaged 17 points over the two games while recording 10 assists against Prairie Central.

The Ironmen finish the regular season with home games against Bloomington on March 2 and Champaign Central on March 5 before competing in the Big 12 tournament.

Cleveland and Redd’s strong play has put the team in position to continue the program’s streak of finishing above .500 in Big 12 conference games which dates back to the 2007-2008 season.