Even with Juwan Starks virtually shackled to the bench for the first three quarters, West Aurora had few problems with its historic rival East Aurora Saturday night in DeKalb.
Northern Illinois' Convocation Center was the domain for the teams' 215th boys basketball encounter, and Starks' resounding dunk to open second-half play was emblematic of the night: the Tomcats, a reigning Class 4A sectional finalist who lost nine of their top 10 players to graduation, stood little chance in dropping their ninth straight game to start the season.
To make matters worse for East Aurora, its top-two leading scorers, DeJon Talbert and Larry Reynolds, were out of action.
But there is little, if any, mercy shown in this peerless basketball rivalry, and 12 players scored for West Aurora in its 72-41 victory.
It was the Blackhawks' largest margin of victory in the series since a December 2003 game, 82-49, witnessed before an appreciably smaller crowd than the 6,000-plus who attended two seasons ago.
Jayquan Lee and Josh McAuley scored 11 points apiece while respectively running the offense and dictating the paint as the Blackhawks won for the seventh time in eight starts this year.
Starks, the Blackhawks' three-time all-DuPage Conference performer who has averaged 21 points per game, was sitting next to coach Gordie Kerkman for most of the night after picking up two quick fouls in the opening quarter and a charge to start the third.
"He didn't even play half the game," Kerkman said.
His teammates rose to the occasion, though, as the Blackhawks hit East Aurora with a 15-0 first-quarter ending run to easily erase the Tomcats' only lead of the game at 4-2.
The carnage would only become exponentially worse for East Aurora as the combination of the Blackhawks' withering defensive pressure, depth and balance consumed the Tomcats' inexperienced players.
After going scoreless in the opening quarter, McAuley was an immovable force around the bucket.
The 6-foot-6 junior post, whose wingspan defies his size, had two 3-point plays and 3 putbacks for scores bridging the second and third quarters.
"I was nervous, really nervous," McAuley said of playing in his first East-West game. "When the shot goes up, I try to get into the seams (of the defense)."
McAuley, who added 10 rebounds without playing in the fourth quarter, was further aided by the improved play of Lee, who engineered the Blackhawks' offense to a 33-14 lead at the break.
"I feel blessed," said Lee. "I think it's hard practices (that has been the difference in the Blackhawks' offensive fluidity this season). It's just confidence and working hard in practice."
There were many other West Aurora villains to undermine the Tomcats' upset bid.
The Thomas twins, juniors Spencer and Chandler, combined for 17 points, and sixth man Brandon Gossett added a pair of 3-pointers.
"(The twins are) playing with so much more confidence (than a year ago)," Kerkman said. "Brandon can really shoot it."
"West Aurora did a great job of defending and got a lot of transition baskets," East Aurora coach Wendell Jeffries said. "West Aurora also did a great job on its zone offense."
Jonathan Villezcas and Mike McAllister scored 10 points each to lead East Aurora.
Girls game: The girls' varsity undercard at NIU had two notable features: West Aurora senior guard Lexi Nelson and the Blackhawks' smothering defense that shut out the Tomcats for the first 11 minutes of the game.
Nelson almost single-handedly outscored East Aurora as she poured in a career-high 24 points in the Blackhawks' 42-28 win to improve to 4-6.
"It's an amazing feeling, to do it in front of everybody -- my parents -- especially in a rivalry game," Nelson said after draining five 3-pointers to spearhead the win.
"When (Nelson) comes to play, she can play with anybody," West coach Connie Siljendahl said. "She can play with the best."
East Aurora (4-8) was held scoreless in the first quarter, while Nelson had 22 points to the Tomcats' 15 through the first three quarters.