Many factors contributed to the Aurora Christian boys basketball team's 58-48 win at St. Francis on Tuesday night. Put respect for their opponent near the top of that list as well.
Eagles coach Pat McNamara called the victory his team's best performance of the season and said such an effort was needed against a team like the Spartans.
"This was definitely our best game of the season. It had to be. St. Francis is a terrific team and (coach) Bob Ward's teams are super-disciplined," he said.
The Eagles (10-7, 2-3 Suburban Christian Blue), after leading 28-26 at halftime, put together a big third quarter to take control of the game and not let go.
Aurora Christian outscored St. Francis 17-7 in the key third period, leading 45-33 at the end of it. The Eagles shot 8 of 15 from the field during it, while the Spartans stood at 3 of 12.
Aurora Christian senior Johnathan Harrell, who scored a game-high 17 points, was key during the Eagles' run. He was 4-of-4 shooting in the third quarter and 5 of 5 for the half.
"Coach told us (at halftime) to play hard. It was only halfway through the game and with our conditioning, we should be able to play a hard man-to-man defense," Harrell said. "I kept calm (in the second half). I did a couple of drives and was able to kick it out to my teammates."
The Eagles were able to push their advantage to 15 points twice in the final quarter. Wes Wolfe hit for 13 points for the victors. R.D. Lutze had 8.
"We got a great game from Wes Wolfe. He was all over the floor and took a couple of charges," McNamara said.
Zach Prociuk paced the Spartans' offense with 13 points. Killian Brown had 9 and Kevin Blank 8.
St. Francis led most of the second quarter and had two 4-point advantages during the period including with 2:58 until halftime on a jumpshot by Prociuk.
Ward returned the respect back to the Eagles and said the Spartans (6-6, 3-2) needed an outstanding performance to beat them.
"They outplayed us, outworked us and got the 50-50 balls," he said. "The tougher team won tonight. We struggled and the tougher team usually wins.
"Aurora Christian is too tough to match up with and you can't give them second shots like we were."