Seeing an Aurora Central Catholic player get just the slightest breach in East Aurora's defense, a shout came from the Chargers' bench.
That meant shoot the 3-pointer. All Saturday night long the Chargers followed suit. Headed by Sean Harreld and Mac Cowen with a late surge by Nick Faltz ACC hit 12 of 31 (38.7 percent) bombs but it could not derail determined East Aurora, which won 81-54 to reach the title of its own Holiday Tournament for the first time since 2010.
"I was encouraged tonight because I saw more good things," said ACC coach Nathan Drye. "(I'm) not really wrapped up in the score and the outcome right now, it's just about us getting better and I thought our effort was good. We've just got to try to build off that."
East Aurora (4-8) has won three straight games since the death of assistant coach Troy Smith from what Tomcats head coach Wendell Jeffries suspected "90 percent" to have been a heart attack sometime during the night after the Dec. 19 game at Waubonsie Valley. Jeffries said the varsity team went to the funeral service Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and some of the players later visited Smith's gravesite.
"It was a long day, and then to come back and play. But they were inspired," he said.
"They're doing a great job of handling it. There's no practice for something like this. It is pulling us together, creating a focus. I said way back when that we have talent, but we would talk about pulling together as a family ... It made us pull together."
East rallied particularly after Harreld's 3 from the top of the key had ACC (1-9) scrambling within 16-10 of East Aurora after one quarter.
Between the 25-foot 3-pointers made by East's KeJaun Davis and the inside play of Jonathan Villezcas and Fred Reynolds, the Tomcats led 44-29 at halftime.
It didn't stop there, as Reynolds stole the ball 3 times in the third quarter to help fuel a 63-45 Tomcats lead entering the fourth.
Harreld, 5 of 11 from 3-point land, led ACC with 15 points followed by Cowen and Brett Czerak with 10 apiece; Faltz scored 8 points. Davis and Villezcas tied for East honors with 17, 15 for Reynolds and 14 by Omar Hernandez, affective in the paint.
"Probably a key for this team is being resilient," said Drye, who hopes to return his one player taller than 6-3, Sean Anger, back from injury in January. "You've just got to keep coming to work, keep getting better. You see it in like flashes of guys making plays here and there. We've got kids who can do stuff, we just haven't strung it together for 32 minutes very often."