The packed bleachers at IMSA for a Class 3A regional quarterfinal could mean only one thing. Marmion was playing Aurora Central Catholic in boys basketball.
Each had beaten the other once during the season, to the delight of their home fans. At a neutral site Tuesday in Aurora, No. 4 seed Aurora Central Catholic won the one that really mattered, 53-51 to bounce its stiffest rival from the playoffs for the second straight year. The Chargers advance to Tuesday's 6 p.m. game against No. 1 seed Wheaton Academy.
"It means a lot, it was our big rivalry," said ACC point guard Anthony Andujar, who scored 13 points including 5-of-6 fourth-quarter foul shooting.
"We just wanted to come out here and just beat them," he said. "You know what they did to us on their court -- they beat us by at least 25 (actually 60-36). So it just means a lot to us, especially since it's a regional and all."
Because it was a regional and all it'd figure to come to the very end. Although Aurora Central (15-12) led the Cadets 34-26 after three quarters and by 44-37 with 3:06 left in the game, Marmion had a run left.
Twice Marmion (10-19) cut the deficit to 3 points before the Chargers pushed it back up to 51-44 with 32.3 seconds left. Andujar made 2 free throws and Phil Schuetz grabbed a defensive rebound, was fouled and made 2 more to gap the Cadets.
Aurora Central needed only single free throws by Mike O'Donnell and Schuetz over the next 20 seconds, then simply threw the ball downcourt after Marmion senior Alex Theisen hit his second 3 of the quarter with 4.5 seconds left.
"They definitely came out to play harder than we did," said Theisen, whose 10 points joined sophomores Jake Esp and Jordan Glasgow in double figures at 16 and 11 points, respectively.
"We just didn't come out in the first three quarters of play, and we started finally running our game plan in the fourth quarter. It was too late by then," Theisen said.
The Chargers led only 12-11 after a quarter but Marmion coach Ryan Paradise thought his team acted tentative against ACC's 2-1-2 zone defense -- though he noted ACC's defense "had a lot to do with it."
"When the ball went into the high post it took us screaming and yelling at our guys to face up and make a play when a week and a half ago we had no problems and all week in practice all we were talking about was being aggressive, being aggressive," Paradise said.
One of those drives, Glasgow hard to the hole, put Marmion up 20-17 midway through the second quarter. ACC countered with an 11-0 run to close the half, one highlight being Shawn Soris hitting a 3 with a hand in his face. He scored 13 points. The middle of that zone was another highlight.
"We just trusted in our bigs, Brad (Searles) and Michael (O'Donnell), and they did a good job at shutting down Glasgow and Esp, or at least containing them and not letting them get too many. They did a good job at slowing them down and we got good stops," said Schuetz, who scored a game-high 17 points with 8 rebounds.
A not-so-secret weapon was Andujar, whose quickness resulted in penetration that led to a layup, assist or free throw.
"He was probably the difference in the game especially down the stretch for us, because his ability to get in the lane and either dish or score kind of sealed the game," said Chargers coach Nathan Drye. "I thought he was awesome tonight. He was absolutely terrific."
Kaneland 79, IMSA 40: Brian Johnson's postgame voice may not have had the usual degree of sandpaper scratchiness, but he did enough motivating for the Knights to get the job done.
Against the host of the Class 3A IMSA regional, which ended its season at 2-23, Kaneland coasted to a 79-40 victory in the second quarterfinal game. The Knights face No. 2 St. Francis at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Yelling "Go!" whenever No. 3 Kaneland (16-11) forced one of No. 6 IMSA's 14 first half turnovers or grabbed a defensive rebound -- Kaneland outrebounded the Titans 47-30 -- Johnson's urging yielded 15 points and 8 rebounds from John Pruett, 13 points from Matt Limbrunner and, on the perimeter, a team-high 19 points from Dylan Vaca. The 6-foot-2 freshman nailed four 3-point baskets and overall was 7-for-10 from the floor.
"It's something where we want to get the ball up the floor and try to get the best possible shot right away," Johnson said of the plan against IMSA.
"Tomorrow we're going to have to have great possessions," he said. "I don't think they're (St. Francis) going to just allow us to just go up the floor. Not that IMSA was letting us just go up the floor, but tomorrow we're going to have to be really offensively sound, take care of the basketball and have great possessions."
IMSA's Isiah Butler did his best to keep the Titans hanging with Kaneland, starting with a pair of 3s that had IMSA within 17-11 after one quarter. The Knights' 13-2 start to the second quarter created all the distance they needed, though Butler continued firing away for five 3s and a game-high 20 points.
Kaneland achieved its goal -- to hone its chops and advance.
"Just come out with the focus of concentrating on our own game and doing things that we need to do to execute on the defensive and offense end of the floor," Johnson said. "Just have some success and see the ball go into the hole so tomorrow night we're not tentative or hesitant out there."