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PONTIAC — West Aurora smelled blood in the water.
Unfortunately for the St. Charles North boys basketball team, there were would be few respites.
After taking a double-digit lead into halftime of the second quarterfinal of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, the Blackhawks exploded in the second half, scoring 47 points on 20-for-31 field-goal shooting.
With its 76-52 victory over St. Charles North in the schools' first-ever meeting, top-ranked West Aurora cruised into the semifinals of the famed tournament for the first time in six years.
The Blackhawks (9-1) will meet Warren, which eased past second-seeded Peoria Manual.
St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin could only marvel after witnessing what all too many other coaches from throughout the state in past decades at Pontiac have incurred — a devastatingly disciplined, unselfish style of play.
"They play the game the right way and have the athletes to do it," Poulin said of West Aurora. "It's a credit to their coaching staff, and their kids, too."
West Aurora had a 9-0 run to break free from the only tie of the game at 2-2.
St. Charles North, which missed 11 of its 12 3-point field-goal attempts in the opening half, did manage to close to within 13-9 at one point early in the second quarter.
But Jayqan Lee hit two 3-pointers midway through the second for West Aurora, and reserve Matt Williams' 5 straight points to close out the quarter gave the Blackhawks a 29-18 at the break.
West Aurora was only revving its engines.
The Blackhawks put on an offensive clinic in the second half, utilizing superior ball movement and team quickness.
St. Charles North paid a glaring price for leaving its backdoor wide open as West Aurora feasted with its crisp passing for countless easy scores.
"It all started from the defensive end," said Jontrel Walker, who scored a team-high 18 points, including two 3-point plays during the Blackhawks' 24-point third-quarter burst. "Everybody was really involved. I think we played really well as a team. It just wasn't any one guy."
Josh McAuley dictated the paint once again for West Aurora with 12 points and game-highs of 11 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Chandler Thomas' 4 points were not nearly as meaningful as his defensive assignment: stopping St. Charles North Loyola-bound guard Quentin Payne.
The senior would ultimately score 18 points, but Thomas' defense made Payne earn every point.
Thomas' twin brother Chandler was the beneficiary of several great looks for easy buckets as he finished with 12 points.
Williams and Lee missed double figures by a mere point for West Aurora, while Brandon Wyeth hit 3 straight shots in the last two minutes to finish with 8 points.
St. Charles North 63, Peoria Manual 60: In the North Stars' fifth-place semifinal game against Peoria Manual, Payne scored a game-high 26 points to lead St. Charles North past the only team in state history to win four consecutive state championships.
The 63-60 St. Charles North win earned the squad a date with either Joliet West or Bloomington later this evening.
The Payne total, which included a pair of free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining, was the high of the tournament thus far.
Alec Goetz hit four 3-pointers in scoring 15 points for St. Charles North (8-5).