Ironmen boys basketball slams down season opening win over Bloomington

Zach Cleveland through down one of the Ironmens 11 combined dunks in their season-opening win over the Bloomington High School Raiders on Nov. 20. 
Photo Courtesy of: Mr. Brad Bovenkerk
Zach Cleveland through down one of the Ironmen’s 11 combined dunks in their season-opening win over the Bloomington High School Raiders on Nov. 20. Photo Courtesy of: Mr. Brad Bovenkerk
Mr. Brad Bovenkerk
Check out the Ironmen’s high flyer’s highlight reel.

The Ironmen threw down a 68-43 win over the Bloomington Raiders in the 2023-24 season opener at the Shirk Center Nov. 20.

Community dominated the opening minutes of the Intercity tournament, slamming down four dunks in the contest’s opening three minutes of play and jumped out to a 14-0 lead over the Raiders. 

The Ironmen hammered down 11 dunks on the night, with eight executed in transition, coming off deflections and steals.

Bloomington’s balanced offensive attack cut the Iron lead to nine, with the Raiders trailing 24-15 early in the second quarter.

From there it was all Ironmen, as that would be the last time Community led by single digits. 

Community headed into halftime with a 48-27 lead over the Purple Raiders. Jaheem Webber had 14 first half points, and Noah Cleveland contributed 12 in his first game back in the orange and black after a year hiatus. 

Webber led the Iron in scoring, finishing the night with 21 points. 20 of the Wright State commit’s points came in the paint, with Webber throwing down three dunks in the contest.  

Cleveland put up tall numbers, slamming down three dunks of his own. The 6-foot-9 senior finished the game second in scoring for the Iron with 18 points.

In a defense-dominated second half, the Iron outscored Bloomington 20 to 16, giving Community their first win of the season.

Community’s success in the first of their four Intercity matchups was headlined by their presence in the paint.

58 of the Iron’s 68 points came from within the green key of the Shirk center. Senior starters Webber, Cleveland, Braylon Roman and Niko Newsome accounted for 52 of the points in the paint. 

The 6-foot-4 Roman led the Iron in dunks, with eight of the guard’s 10 total points coming from four ferocious fast break dunks. 

Roman initiated those fast breaks with his defensive play, as the senior’s stellar scores came off steals.

Ahead of the game, team chemistry was a concern for head coach Mr. Dave Witzig as the Iron’s roster features a mix of old and new faces. 

Chemistry wasn’t a concern as Roman connected with Bloomington High School transfer Niko Newsome, throwing up an alley-oop which Newsome threw down for a statement slam over his former team. 

Newsome, who averaged over 20 points a game starting for Bloomington last season, had six points in the contest.

Robert Clark, one the Raider’s two returners from last season, led BHS in scoring with 12 points and was the only member of the purple and gold to score in double digits.

Nearly half of the Purple Raiders’ points came from beyond the arc, with six Raiders combining for 21 points from downtown. 

The Ironmen made two threes in the matchup, both coming from junior transfer Conner Smith. 

The former Rantoul Eagle ended his Ironmen debut with eight points. 

All 14 uniformed Ironmen saw time on the court in Monday’s win, among them the team’s lone sophomore Tre Birditt.

Birditt finished his first varsity matchup with a pair of buckets, seeing extended action on the floor.

The Iron head back to Illinois Wesleyan’s Shirk Center Wednesday, Nov. 22 when they face the University High School Pioneers at 7:30 p.m.

Last season, U-High fell in the 2A Sectional Finals, suffering a three-point loss to Central Catholic, the eventual 2A runners-up.

The Pioneer’s most productive players from last season, Mason Funk and Ty Blake, are no longer on the U-High roster. The graduates are now playing for Illinois Wesleyan and Illinois State respectively.

Despite the losses, U-High may pose more of a challenge in the paint than the Raiders, as the Pioneers boast the tallest opponent Community will face in Intercity. 

U-High’s John Burras, at 6-foot-9, is the tallest player in the Intercity tournament not in an Iron uniform.

Community takes on Central Catholic on Nov. 24 and Normal West on Nov. 27 to conclude Intercity tournament action.

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