Aurora Central Catholic has never shied away from playing bigger schools at holiday tournaments, and Wednesday that meant defending Class 3A state champion Peoria Central on the opening day of the 47th annual East Aurora Holiday Tournament.
The Chargers stayed with Peoria through three quarters, turning the game into an up-tempo affair to trail by just two points heading to the final eight minutes.
But when the shots stopped dropping and the Chargers turned the ball over a couple times the game started to slip away, and Peoria Central left with a 67-50 victory.
"You feel it when you can't make anything and you start seeing the score spreading out," said senior Phil Schuetz who led the Chargers with 16 points. "We were just playing hard and playing fast. We were making our shots the first three quarters and the fourth we just cooled off."
Peoria Central (2-6) outscored Aurora Central Catholic (6-4) 18-3 in the fourth quarter to turn what had been a tight game the entire way into an anticlimactic finish.
"The fourth quarter we had a couple untimely turnovers and dropped the ball a couple times when we were going to have good looks," Chargers coach Nate Drye said. "And we also missed some shots we have to have and we let them stretch it out. We did what we wanted to do for three quarters. I don't care what their record is they are state champions, they are good. We were able to do what we wanted to do for the most part."
Chargers senior point guard Anthony Andujar beat the first-quarter with a 3-pointer, capping a wild opening eight minutes that ended with Peoria Central ahead 21-19.
That was one of three 3s the Chargers made in the first half to trail 36-33 at halftime. They then went ahead twice in the third quarter, first at 39-38 when Sean Anger cut down the lane and took a feed for a lay-in, then again at 41-40 when Zach Flint shook off a bump and still was able to sink his shot.
The Chargers finally cooled at the worst time -- going the first four-plus minutes of the fourth quarter without a point until Sean Harreld's 3-pointer with 3:29 left in the game. By that time the Lions had turned their 49-47 lead through three quarters into a 61-50 advantage.
"We played well," Drye said. "We played hard the whole game but I thought we played pretty well for three quarters."
Peoria Central's Josh Augusta led all players with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Flint joined Schuetz in double figures with 10 points; Harreld and Andujar (6 assists) both had 9 for the Chargers who play undefeated Neuqua Valley (11-0) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
"We definitely have our hands full," Drye said. "Neuqua is fabulous. They really guarded in that first game (against Geneva). If we can somehow get the game moving up and down that would be big for us. Because if we have to grind through their half court it's going to be a hassle because they are really good."