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Top-ranked showdown: Ironmen boys basketball face Metamora Redbirds at 2024 Midwest Crossroads Shootout

The+Midwest+Crossroads+tournament+will+feature+five+state+ranked+teams+Saturday.+The+annual+Normal+West+shootout+began+in+2022.+
The Midwest Crossroads tournament will feature five state ranked teams Saturday. The annual Normal West shootout began in 2022.

The Ironmen boys basketball team takes on the Metamora Redbirds in a clash of two state-ranked teams in Saturday’s 2024 Midwest Crossroads Shootout at Normal West.

The Redbirds, as of Jan. 31st’s Associated Press rankings, are third in Class 3A and the Ironmen seventh in 4A, with both teams boasting identical 22-4 records at press time.  

Metamora will enter the 7:30 p.m. finale better-rested than the Iron. The Redbirds’ last game came Jan. 31., when they notched a 45-42 victory over the Pekin Dragons to extend their win streak to nine games. The Ironmen are in action tonight, hosting Big 12 foe Danville (9-14).  

The game looks to be a high-scoring affair as it will feature a shot clock, a feature Community head coach Mr. Dave Witzig believes adds an offensive spark to IHSA basketball.

Even without a 35-second clock, the game promises plenty of offensive action. 

Community’s offensive is led by the three-headed monster of Noah Cleveland, Braylon Roman and Jaheem Webber. Combined, the trio averages over 34 points a game this season.

Despite missing a game earlier this week with an illness, Cleveland leads the Iron’s offensive charge. The senior averages 12.9 points a game, ahead of Roman’s 11.3 and Webber’s 10.5. 

Cleveland’s stats result from more scoring opportunities, something created by Webber’s paint presence. With Webber, a Wright State commit, shooting at a 71.5% clip and almost 90% of points coming in the paint, teams have been forced to double-team him down low, opening up opportunities for the Iron. 

The Redbirds have a high-powered trio of their own led by 6-foot-8 Iowa University commit Cooper Koch, a formidable force in the front court. 

Koch, a Peoria Notre Dame transfer, is the second-ranked recruit in Illinois, currently holding offers from Illinois, Indiana and Purdue. 

While the Ironmen will look to limit Koch, they must also account for Metamora’s Matthew Zobrist and Tyler Mason.

Community’s junior center Kobe Walker knows what the Rebird’s shooting guard Matthew Zobrist is capable of. Walker and the 6-foot-5 junior were teammates this summer on the Midwest Prospect Academy’s AAU team.

Zobrist, Walker said, is “a good playmaker and shooter.”

That playmaking ability has attracted offers from Bryant, Illinois State, Eastern Illinois, and Bradley, where Zobrist’s father played. 

Joining Zobrist in the backcourt is All-State senior Tyler Mason, a D-II commit who will take the court for Winona State University next season. 

While Community and the Redbirds haven’t matched up since 2019, the teams have shared some common opponents this season in shootout and tournament play.

These high-caliber contests are where the Iron have suffered their lone four losses on the season.

The Iron’s largest loss this season, a seven-point margin, came at the hands of Harvey Thornton; Thornton, currently the top-ranked team in 3A, defeated the Iron 44-37 on Dec. 12.

Metamora, too, fell to Thornton, but by much narrower margins, falling 63-62 on Jan. 6. 

Community’s second-largest loss of the season? That came against Downers Grove North on Jan. 15, when the Trojans handed the Iron a 40-35 defeat. 

Metamora knocked off Downers North in late December 44-38, with Zobrist tallying 15 and Mason 10 against the Trojans.

The Ironmen tip-off against the Metamora Redbirds at 7:30 p.m. at Normal West High School. Tickets for the 2024 Midwest Crossroads Shootout are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. 

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About the Contributor
Jeffery Woodard, Senior Staff Reporter
Jeffery Woodard is a senior at Normal Community High School and is involved in track & field. This is his third year working with the Inkspot, and he is a senior staff reporter. On the weekends, I enjoy hanging out with friends and going to the gym. In my free time, I enjoy watching movies of all sorts. My favorite film is "Black Panther."
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