With the West Aurora boys basketball team trailing by two points and less than a minute left in regulation, senior point guard Matt Dunn showed his athleticism by leaping out of bounds to barely prevent a turnover.
Dunn and the Blackhawks then showed their poise.
Dunn sank two free throws with 24.9 seconds left to force overtime, and West Aurora pulled out a 59-54 victory at Naperville Central in the key battle of undefeated DuPage Valley Conference powers.
"Down four with a minute to go (in regulation), we had a lot of momentum coming into that overtime, a lot of momentum," Dunn said.
"We knew we were the underdog. We just had to get the win. Now their back is against the wall and they've got to beat us at our place for the conference."
West Aurora (6-1, 3-0) trailed 49-45 with 1:14 left in regulation, but Jontrel Walker sank two free throws with 57.9 seconds left and a full-court press forced a backcourt turnover.
Moments after his acrobatic save to Walker, Dunn drove the lane and was fouled.
"I just reacted to the ball (by the sidelines) and threw it to the open man. (Walker) made a good catch, a good play," Dunn said. "I just had to knock down the free throws. That's what we do in practice every day."
Walker finished with 26 points and made 8 for 8 free throws, including 6 for 6 in OT. Roland Griffin added 12 points, including two OT baskets, and Tommy Koth added 8. Sophomore Carleton Williams had 11 rebounds.
"It was just being a leader (in OT). I knew that my team needed me. We needed those free throws badly," Walker said. "Just the urge to win (pushed us). We kept thinking in our heads, saying to each other, 'We're not losing this game.' "
For Naperville Central (5-3, 2-1), Nick Czarnowski had 15 points and 7 rebounds, followed by Ryan Antony with 9 points, 7 assists and Taylor Zelinski with 8 points.
Walker led West Aurora in making 15 of 16 free throws for the game. Naperville Central made only 4 of 12, including 2 for 5 in the fourth quarter with a missed 1-and-1.
"This game was lost by the free-throw line. It's as simple as that," Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said. "This game was ours and we let it slip away. The kids deserve to win it, but I told the kids you can't beat good teams when you don't make free throws down the stretch of games."
After the Redhawks missed a last-second 3 in regulation, the Blackhawks never trailed in OT. On the Redhawks' first possession Griffin blocked an inside shot and Walker followed with two free throws. After a Naperville Central free throw, Griffin lofted a short baseline shot over the raised arm of a defender and Walker added two more free throws for a 55-50 advantage.
"I didn't think we played a particularly good second half. We lost our patience and poise. Fortunately, I think they found it in the overtime," West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman said. "Sometimes teams need games like this where you have to come from behind. Hopefully, we learned something from it."
The Redhawks nearly tied the game 53-53 when Antony sank a 3 from the corner. Officials, however, had just stopped play because Czarnowski had been hurt on the other end of the floor.
"That really hurt. That would have tied the game," Kramer said. "Instead, they blow the play dead but meanwhile they let (us) play all the way down the floor. I thought that was a very critical call."
The Redhawks' Matt Bennett stole the ball and scored, but Griffin responded with a thunderous dunk down the middle of the lane for a 57-52 lead with 32 seconds left.
"He can dunk. In fact he broke one of our backboards over at the school," Kerkman said.
West Aurora led 32-23 at the half. Naperville Central opened the third quarter with back-to-back 3s from Bennett and Zelinski and switched to a man-to-man defense. The Redhawks went on a 7-0 run to take their first lead at 38-37 on Patrick Maloney's three-point play.
West Aurora led 42-40 entering the fourth quarter. Dunn scored a basket on the Blackhawks' first possession but they didn't have another field goal the rest of period on 1-for-12 shooting.
"Not all of them were bad shots, but I thought we hurried them," Kerkman added. "I told them I felt like we were in hurry in the second half. I said to them, 'Why would be in a hurry? We had a 9-point lead at halftime,' but we were and hopefully, we learned something from it."