Friday night's 60-53 win by West Aurora over host Lake Park was the tale of two teams.
It was about the Blackhawks, who were experienced enough to know how to dig their way out of a 10-point deficit in the third quarter.
It was about the energetic Lancers, a young team still learning how to finish off a game.
"I didn't know if we would get back (from the deficit). We didn't have any life to us and we were not taking good shots," said West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman. "We started forcing turnovers and as I result I think their (Lake Park) play became shakier."
After leading 29-27 at halftime, the Lancers (13-8, 3-4) came out in full force to start the third quarter, making 3 of their first four shots to take a 36-29 lead when Kerkman called a timeout. The Blackhawks (13-3, 7-0) were just 1 of 5.
About 15 seconds later Lake Park's Melvin Kimbrough sank a 3 to give his team its first 10-point lead of the period at 39-29. With 1:45 left in the quarter, two free throws by Marcus McDaniel, who led his team with 11 points, gave Lake Park a 43-33 lead.
However, West Aurora finished out on an 8-0 run on a 3-pointer and two free throws by Tommy Koth and a three-point play from Roland Griffin, who finished with 15 points.
Jontrell Walker, who scored a game-high 24 points, opened the fourth quarter with a shot that tied the game at 43. With 5:30 left in the game, Myles Wisley converted a basket off a Lancers turnover to give his team a 51-45 lead.
About three minutes later Lake Park's Cameron Van Aswegen hit a 3-pointer to cut the West Aurora lead to 53-50.
In the last 1:13 of the game, the Blackhawks sank 5 of 7 free throws and Lake Park cut the West Aurora lead to four twice, but West Aurora kept its grip on the game.
"We kept our confidence up and kept the momentum going our way," Walker said.
Lake Park coach Josh Virostko said his team needs to learn, after taking control of a game, to keep it.
"I think the difference tonight was West Aurora is a great team. And we had a chance to extend the lead after leading by 10, but our youth and maturity showed," he said. "They need to learn to don't let up. They got caught up in the moment."
Besides Van Aswegen, Michael Karas and Sean Moore also scored 9 points each.
West Aurora returns to the its home court Saturday to take on cross-town rival East Aurora. Walker said there are no particular keys to the game.
"The game is big enough. We just need to stay poised and play hard," he said.