Offering two great coaches and two scrappy sides, St. Francis and Aurora Central Catholic boys basketball teams will invariably be there at the end.
St. Francis' first quarter, however, created separation to hold off the Chargers' inevitable charge and claim a 53-51 Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division victory Saturday.
"I thought we were aggressive offensively and that led to some good action underneath, and I thought we started the game defensively as well as we have all year long," said St. Francis coach Bob Ward. "I really, really thought that we took them out of their stuff early. Then it turned into a good high school basketball game."
Starting with a steal and layup, St. Francis' Jason Pisarski scored 9 of his game-high 18 points in the opening period, helping St. Francis (7-1, 3-1) post an 18-12 lead after one quarter. The 6-foot-4 senior had 3 steals in the game as did forward Matt Bonner.
"We just love to swarm the ball and force as many turnovers as possible. Just love to get after it, basically," Pisarski said.
ACC coach Nathan Drye did not believe his Chargers (6-3, 2-2) got after it quickly.
"We didn't guard and we turned it over just constantly," he said of 6 first-quarter turnovers, 15 in the game. "We dug a hole and they're too well-coached to really dig out of that hole like that. So we lost that game in the opening eight minutes."
St. Francis' Pisarski, Bonner, Andrew Kimball, Tim Zettinger and Kevin McShea, who finished with 16 points, shared the ball exquisitely in that first quarter. Aurora Central made 6 of 10 shots to stay within sight, but a 5-turnover third quarter enabled St. Francis to extend its lead.
As the ACC student section repeatedly chanted "Boring!" the Spartans patiently executed against ACC's 2-3 zone. Pisarski hit a pair of 3s from the same spot, McShea converted a three-point play after a Bonner offensive rebound and Zettinger and Jason Sullivan canned 3s for a 45-32 lead after three quarters.
Then, Drye said, "I thought we finally did what we were supposed to do."
Aided by St. Francis' 4-of-12 fourth-quarter foul shooting, the Chargers grabbed 13 rebounds and got within 51-49 on Phil Schuetz' offensive rebound and putback, among his 14 points. Sean Harreld's baseline floater had ACC within 52-51 with 17.6 seconds left.
Zettinger made a free throw with nine seconds left. ACC's last chance ended with Zettinger on the floor with the ball after ACC point guard Anthony Andujar slipped dribbling into the paint.
ACC forward Mike O'Donnell, who scored 10 points with 8 rebounds, said the comeback was a matter of "put your foot down and say, it's time to get going. We've got to do that from the beginning, though. We wait too long to get that going."