Class 4A Hinsdale Central supersectional
West Aurora (24-6) at
Proviso East (28-3)
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Outlook: In the same gym against the same opponent nearly one year ago today, March 13, 2012, West Aurora saw last season end, 62-51 to the eventual 4A runner-up. Proviso East's second-year coach and one third of the Pirates' legendary "Three Amigos," Donnie Boyce, said, "The only thing we carried over from last year, the target was going to be so much bigger." It seemed inevitable that whichever team survived the grueling Bolingbrook sectional would face the Pirates. West Aurora, now seeking its 13th supersectional title and first downstate berth since a Class AA quarterfinal appearance in 2006, obviously aims to sink that target. "It would mean a lot to me to have these kids go downstate," Blackhawks coach Gordie Kerkman said. "Fortunately we've experienced it before and I think it'd be a tremendous experience for these kids to play in the state tournament."
Though Boyce said only the target returned from last season, unfortunately for West Aurora senior leaders Illinois State recruit Paris Lee and Southern Methodist-bound Sterling Brown do as well. Point guard Lee averages 14 points, 5 assists, 5 steals and hits 40 percent of his 3-point tries. The versatile 6-foot-5 Brown averages 17 points and a team-high 11 rebounds with 5 assists per game. Add guard Jevon Carter's team-high 18 points a game and 10 each from 6-5 senior forward Parish McCullum and sophomore guard Kalin Fisher, plus 6-4 sixth man Branden Jenkins at 15 points a game, and it's easy to see why Proviso East averages 76 points and has lost to only Oswego, Morgan Park and Lone Peak (Utah), which won a third straight state title and is MaxPreps' No. 1 team in the nation. "First of all," said Boyce, who noted his respect for Kerkman several times, "we want to try to make it an uptempo-type game, use our athleticism and speed to try to negate some of the height advantage they have against us."
Really, the main height advantage West Aurora has is 6-foot-7 center Josh McAuley, who last season was ejected along with a Pirates player late in the third quarter after words and shoves were exchanged. McAuley, averaging 13.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and with an even 100 blocked shots on the season, was able to skirt foul trouble in the Blackhawks' 61-60 win over Oswego and for most of West's 42-38 win over Bolingbrook's top seed, Benet. Although 6-3 sophomore Roland Griffin came off the bench and shined in key moments in both the Blackhawks' sectional victories, foul trouble to McAuley could spell doom. He's got the ability to draw Brown or McCullum away from the basket with his shot and high-post passing, and against Benet as well as at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament McAuley provided big-game panache. If West Aurora does own a size advantage it's probably in width and bulk with twin forwards Spencer and Chandler Thomas, who average 7.9 points and 3.6 rebounds and 5.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, respectively. "Those twins and the big fellow in the middle, they can really make it difficult and cut off the middle," Boyce said.
As always, West Aurora must be able to handle Proviso East's pressure defense, which can extend full court in man-to-man or zone looks, snap into three-quarters court, traps or stick to quick half-court man to fuel transition buckets. Last year the Pirates forced 15 first-half turnovers and 25 for the game yet led only 29-21 at halftime. The Blackhawks, though, haven't been killed by the press, with Jontrell Walker (averaging 17.8 points with 51 3-pointers), and veteran Jayquan Lee bolstered by sophomore Matt Dunn and defensive stopper Matt Williams.
Both coaches expect somewhat of a defensive grinder. If it comes down to free throws -- as it did for West Aurora against Benet, Lee making 8 for 11 and the team going 23 of 36 -- West holds the edge at 71 percent to 64 percent. West Aurora effectively beat Benet at its own defensive-based, low-scoring game, never letting the Redwings run much offense thanks in big part to second-half foul trouble. Kerkman believes a similar game in the 40s "would work in our favor"; Boyce expects "a hard-fought and gritty, physical game."
Proviso East's quickness, pressure defense, multiple scoring options and ability to score in bunches must be contained. Kerkman explains the Blackhawks' keys like this: "Not allowing penetration, we've got to win the battle of the boards and we've got to take care of the basketball. That's the way we'll have to play and if that's not good enough that's not good enough."
Advancement: The winner advances to play the winner of the Chicago State University supersectional between New Trier (28-5) and Simeon (27-3) in the Class 4A semifinals 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Peoria Civic Center.