Still seething from a loss to cross-town rival Aurora Central Catholic 6 days earlier, Aurora Christian's boys basketball team came out with some renewed purpose against Marmion Friday night.
Blasting off to a 12-0 lead in the first four and a half minutes, the Eagles (13-11, 2-7) built an 18-point first-half lead and then withstood a late rally by the host Cadets (9-16, 3-6) for a much-needed 55-48 Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division triumph in Aurora.
"We were kind of angry losing to Aurora Central Catholic (66-55 on Feb. 2) and for not doing so well in the conference," said junior Johnathan Harrell, who scored a team-high 14 points for the Eagles. "This game, we were planning on coming out hard and giving it our all the entire first quarter and then just going from there."
Starting his first game at point guard, the 6-foot-3 Harrell helped jump-start the offense.
He began by connecting on a 3-pointer in the opening minute, assisting on Ryan Suttle's fast-break layup, throwing an alley-oop pass off an inbounds pass to Suttle (13 points) for an inside bucket, and then knocking down another 3-point basket during the Eagles' 12-0 run.
"It's different taking the ball down court," said Harrell, who added 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and a pair of steals. "There were a couple times where I just felt like running the floor and then remembering that I've got to come back and get the ball.
"It puts a lot more pressure on you but I think I can handle it," he added.
The Eagles also rode the hot hand of senior Cory Windle (13 points, 9 rebounds), who hit his first 5 shots from the field -- the last 3 being 3-pointers.
"Harrell started the point for the first time out here and we got more offense from Suttle at the off-guard (spot)," said Aurora Christian coach Pat McNamara. "It worked out pretty good for us."
Marmion, which trailed 33-15 late in the second quarter and 33-20 at halftime, got back in the game largely thanks to the inside play of Danny Bicknell (4 points, 10 rebounds) and outside shooting of Mike Sheehan (game-high 17 points).
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Sheehan and Jordan Glasgow (12 points) narrowed the deficit to 39-35 with 39 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We had some trouble in the first half with their zone and we weren't really attacking," said Marmion coach Ryan Paradise. "Our defense turned it up in the third and fourth quarters. We turned them over a lot (18) but we didn't attack when we had breaks.
"I thought we mailed it in the first half completely," added Paradise. "We didn't even show up."
Harrell answered the Cadets' comeback with his third 3-pointer of the game -- a shot that took a 1-hop bounce off the rim and through the net to beat the third-quarter buzzer and extend the Eagles' lead to 42-35.
"I feel like that started us off for the fourth quarter," said Harrell.
Suttle's inside basket and Zach Singer's 3-pointer from the corner upped Aurora Christian's lead to double digits at 47-35 with 6:24 remaining.
Ryan McQuade added 7 points off the bench in his first game back since suffering a knee injury against Wheaton Academy (Jan. 19).
It also marked McNamara's first appearance back to Marmion as a head coach after having guided the Cadets from 2002-07.
"No, not really," McNamara said when asked if he took any added satisfaction in his team's victory. "We're just happy to get a conference win. It doesn't matter where we are."