2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 12/30/2013 7:44 AM

Curie tips West Aurora in OT

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  • Jontrel Walker scored a career-high 34 points against Curie on Saturday but it wasn't quite enough in West Aurora's 74-73 overtime loss in the semifinals of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

    Jontrel Walker scored a career-high 34 points against Curie on Saturday but it wasn't quite enough in West Aurora's 74-73 overtime loss in the semifinals of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
    Photo courtesy of Erich Murphy/Pontiac Leader

By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent

PONTIAC -- The West Aurora boys basketball team had the privilege to face one of the top seniors in the country in Cliff Alexander.

But after the conclusion of the second semifinal of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, the Blackhawks can hope only the next time they see the Curie center is at the state tournament in Peoria.

Alexander, committed to Kansas, completed his monster afternoon of 37 points, 26 rebounds and 5 blocked shots with a tip dunk at the buzzer as the Condors denied West Aurora a return trip to the championship game with a 74-73 victory in overtime.

"(Alexander) is almost unstoppable," West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman said of Alexander, who followed a Kamar Marshall miss off the glass with his 10th dunk of the game.

"I knew their big (Carleton Williams) was going to try and block (the Marshall shot)," Alexander said. "I knew how much time was left. I just followed the shot."

It concluded a game of remarkable runs and resilience on both sides.

Curie, which extended its season-long winning streak to nine games, needed a minor miracle to send the game to overtime.

The Blackhawks (8-2), who had their seven-game winning streak snapped, scored the first 11 points of the game behind consecutive 3-point field goals by Roland Griffin, Jontrel Walker and Tommy Koth and a putback by Griffin.

Curie, the top seed, would not take its first lead until early in the fourth quarter as Josh Stamps' 3-pointer culminated a 15-2 run.

Stamps' name would come back to haunt the Blackhawks, who overcame a 55-50 deficit behind the brilliant play of Walker.

The four-year starter pumped in a career-high 34 points on six 3-pointers and engineered a West Aurora revival that gave the team a 66-63 lead with under 10 seconds to play in regulation.

But Stamps' deep baseline-left 3-pointer -- against a double team -- found nothing but net to send the game into overtime.

"We took two timeouts," Kerkman said of the defensive strategy. "We had a foul to give. We were supposed to take a foul. I can't be too critical of the kids. They played their hearts out."

"Josh hit a huge shot," Alexander said.

The Blackhawks, the fourth seed, had almost one-third as many turnovers as the athletically gifted Condors (8-2) struggled in overtime with careless miscues.

But three consecutive split trips at the foul line proved the undoing of the Blackhawks. Griffin, who continues to impress with his 17 points and 8 rebounds, hit one of two with 5.4 seconds to play in overtime to give West Aurora a 73-72 lead.

The 26th Alexander rebound of the contest -- only two fewer than the Blackhawks had as a team -- sealed the Condors' championship appearance against Simeon, which also scored in the waning seconds to defeat Oak Park-River Forest, 48-47, in the first semifinal.

It was a tough way for the West Aurora players to get knocked out of the championship bracket.

"They should have won the game," Curie coach Mike Oliver said.

"We kept the fight in us," said Walker, who scored 16 points before the break to give West Aurora a 36-28 lead at halftime. "The game itself speaks for itself. We gave everything we had. It's all you can ask for."

"Walker was unbelievable," Oliver said.

"I think I'm underrated (at the state level)," Walker said. "(Pontiac) is your time to prove yourself."

Williams was the third West Aurora player in double figures with 11 points; the sophomore post also had team-bests with 9 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Oak Park 75, West Aurora 72: In the third-place game at Pontiac, Oak Park-River Forest overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to hand West Aurora a second overtime loss of the day.

Jason Gant led four OPRF players in double figures as the Huskies outscored the Blackhawks 13-10 in the extra session to record a 75-72 victory.

Jontrel Walker scored a game-high 26 points to lead West Aurora (8-3); Roland Griffin added 19 points for the Blackhawks.

Walker and St. Charles North senior Alec Goetz were unanimous first-team all tournament selections at Pontiac. Griffin and the North Stars' Jake Ludwig earned second-team status.

Curie got past Public League rival Simeon 62-59 in the championship game.

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