There is no deep mystery behind Aurora Christian's 6-game winning streak, punctuated by Wednesday's 78-66 victory over St. Edward in a Class 2A Westmont boys basketball regional semifinal.
"We're passing the ball," Aurora Christian coach Pat McNamara explained. "We didn't do that early in the season. We're passing the ball better than we have all season the last 5 or 6 games. Guys are looking for each other and we do have shooters."
Do they ever. The Eagles made the extra pass and shot St. Edward right out of the neutral-court gym, particularly early. They drained 10 of 12 first-quarter attempts, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range, to take a 25-13 lead after one quarter.
No. 3 Aurora Christian (18-11) shot 31 of 51 from the field overall (61 percent) and made 9 of 19 from beyond the arc (47 percent).
Though No. 2 St. Edward (20-8) fought back from a 24-point, third-quarter hole to trim the deficit to 11 points on three occasions in the fourth quarter, the Green Wave could draw no closer.
"We can't come out and bury ourselves like we have for the last 4 or 5 games of the year," St. Edward coach P.J. White said. "You can't be down 12 after a quarter and 17 at the half against a good team because you can play hard and still never get over the hump.
"If we were going to beat this team, and we talked about it, we had to shoot the ball well in the first quarter. And we didn't, we just didn't. We missed layups, we missed wide open shots, we missed free throws."
St. Edward shot 6 of 15 from the field in the first quarter, 22 of 58 overall (38 percent). Leading the Green Wave were senior point guard Antonio Domel and junior guard DaVontae Elam. Domel tallied 22 points, including a 6-of-7 performance from 3-point range, while Elam contributed 20 points and 3 steals. Sophomore Nick Duffy added 14 points, but leading scorer Adrian Ponce was held to 2 points in his final game.
Aurora Christian punished St. Edward from the inside and the outside in the first quarter. Senior Ryan McQuade came off the bench and buried his first three 3-point attempts, which loosened the post for forward Cory Windle. The 6-4 senior forward led all scorers with 26 points, supported by 17 points from McQuade.
"They were trying to stop the post, but even then we'd kick it right back out for the three," Windle said. "Everything was open, mostly."
Aurora Christian advances to Friday's regional championship game against No. 1 IC Catholic Prep at 7:30 p.m. ICCP(21-5) defeated Lisle 52-44 in Wednesday's first semifinal.
"Aurora Christian is peaking at the right time," White said. "They've really gotten better and could really do some damage with all the weapons that they have."
"IC should be a good matchup," said McNamara's whose Eagles did not face the Knights during the regular season. "I watched them play. They've got a good team. I'm looking forward to it."