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The DuPage Valley Conference boys basketball championship race came down to the very end, and then some.
Not until Glenbard East's Tahron Harvey rose to deflect a shot just inside the 3-point arc by West Aurora's Spencer Thomas with two seconds left in double overtime could the Rams claim the outright title over the host Blackhawks, 76-75 on Wednesday.
The title, initially denied when West Aurora guard Jontrel Walker capped a 20-point fourth quarter with a 33-foot, 3-point swish from the left sideline as regulation time expired, is the third in four seasons for Glenbard East (18-6, 13-1).
"I just thank God for giving me long arms so I could stretch out and get the block, but I had to get there," said Harvey, sporting a bloody bandage above his right eye after an early third-quarter knock that caused him to leave for repairs.
Harvey scored all 3 of Glenbard East's points to force double overtime tied 69-69, and he hit a 3 from the left side to get the Rams within 75-74 of West Aurora (20-6, 11-3). Brandon Havenga made two free throws with 15.2 seconds left.
"I didn't even realize I got hit," said Harvey, who scored a team-high 22 points. "I think I might needs stitches, but that ain't gonna stop me."
Teammates Marvin Grant-Clark and JaRon Hall each scored 17 points and Mike Kjeldsen scored 16 as Glenbard East overcame a 13-point halftime deficit.
Between Josh McAuley scoring 9 of his 15 points in the first half and the Blackhawks finding open teammates cutting to the basket, West Aurora led 36-23 at halftime.
"A tale of two halves," Glenbard East coach Scott Miller called it. "I thought first half they played outstanding. I thought we had some communication issues and we gave some buckets we shouldn't have and they took advantage of that.
"We told our guys, you can't play scared this game. So I thought from the second half on we just played basketball, so I was real proud of our guys for that."
Hall's 3-pointer from the top of the key 9 seconds into the third quarter began a Rams deluge of 11 of 14 from the field, 6 of 7 from 3-point range. Kjeldsen, who said he was 1 of 8 from 3 the prior game, buried three straight to help the Rams outscore West Aurora 30-8 in the third quarter.
"We're playing for the outright DVC conference championship, so I didn't want to lose that," Kjeldsen said. "In that third quarter I just came out and I just gave everything I had. And once Tahron came out I had to step up and start hitting shots. My team started setting screens for me and I started getting open looks and I started knocking shots down."
Walker had next. The Blackhawks junior went 8 of 8 from the floor, including four 3-pointers to score 20 of West Aurora's 22 fourth-quarter points and force overtime tied 66-66. Walker's personal 10-3 run countered a 63-56 Rams lead with 2:50 left in regulation.
Miller termed the Rams' march to the title a "tribute to our seniors." West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman believed the rally was, in a sense, a tribute as well.
"I'm proud of our kids the way they came back," he said. "(Glenbard East) kept hitting 3s, there was a lot of frustration set in and I thought we were losing our poise. Well, we did lose our poise. But they gained it back and they competed that fourth quarter. It's really tough on kids when they put that kind of effort in and it comes up short."