On Aurora Central Catholic's learning curve, this one gets pegged up high.
The host Chargers countered a late deficit Saturday by outscoring Aurora Christian 6-0 over the last 4:06 to earn their first win in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division, 50-47.
Matt Hollon broke a 47-47 deadlock by hitting a free throw with 1:53 left to play, and Sean Harreld made 2 foul shots with 12.5 seconds left for the final margin. Aurora Christian set up for a 3-point shot but couldn't get it off before the final horn.
"We're finally getting over that hump," said 17-point scorer Harreld, the right man with the ball as Aurora Central (3-16, 1-6) wound the clock down, forcing the Eagles to foul. "We're finally getting there. It took us a while, but I think we're there. We're all developing."
Things may have been different had Aurora Christian (12-10, 3-5) had better aim. The Eagles made just 12 of 26 free throws and 1 of 13 three-point shots.
"Our guys, I thought, played tough," said Aurora Christian coach Pat McNamara, whose squad beat the Chargers 65-50 way back on Dec. 20.
"We've just got a little work to do on the free throw line, a little work to do mentally, just being in the right spots at the right time," he said.
Aurora Christian looked to have solved Aurora Central's 2-3 zone early by getting the ball to Zack Singer or R.D. Lutze at the high post for the shot or dish. That tact helped earn a 21-15 lead early in the second quarter.
Then Aurora Central's Mac Cowen delivered consecutive 3-pointers to tie the score, and it stayed tied, 27-27 at halftime.
"Getting in there tied at the half was huge for us," said Chargers coach Nathan Drye.
Aurora Central held the Eagles to 4 of 13 shooting in the third quarter and led 41-38 after three quarters. The Chargers were up 44-40 with 6:53 left in the game on a 3-pointer from the top of the key by 6-foot-7 Sean Anger, who missed the teams' first game recuperating from injury.
"Last time we played them they got a lot of easy buckets, lots of layups, transition buckets and everything," said Anger, who scored 10 points with 11 rebounds. "This time we would get back on 'D' and stop that, stop dribble penetration and everything like that."
But Aurora Central stopped scoring itself, for just over three minutes. Aurora Christian went up 47-44 on a three-point play by Johnathan Harrell, who scored 12 points with 6 steals. They added a Wes Wolfe drive and a double head-and-shoulders move inside by Grant Schweisthal following a steal by the coach's son, also named Pat.
Not done yet, it was then the Chargers' turn to silence their opponent, forcing 3 turnovers plus an offensive foul over the last 4:06. The Chargers tied the game on a pair of Evan Schuetz free throws and, with 2:17 left, one by Andy Czerak.
"I think it just came down to missed shots," said Wolfe, who led Aurora Christian with 14 points. "Things weren't going our way. We've got to just keep our heads up, get in the gym, keep shooting."
Aurora Central's been in that mode all season. Its persistence paid off Saturday.
"The guys kept fighting," Drye said. "We made a lot of mistakes down the stretch but we kept going at it and the guys made just enough plays to do it. It's not an effort thing, it hasn't been an effort thing all year. The effort's been great, we just haven't made quite enough plays. Tonight we made just enough plays."
Geneva 53, Quincy 46: Visiting a historic environment Geneva coach Phil Ralston equated to a "tough regional or sectional" site, the Vikings stormed out to a 12-0 lead after a quarter and prevailed to earn the nonconference victory, improving to 2-2 in the annual series.
"We kept Quincy shut out, which to do in their place, that's tough," Ralston said.
Attacking Quincy's 1-2-2 matchup zone, Geneva (19-4) weathered a second-quarter Blue Devils comeback to lead 21-16 at halftime. The Vikings were up 32-23 after three quarters and expanded the lead to 16 in the fourth when Pace Temple stole the ball and split two defenders with a spin move that Ralston said "blew the doors open" toward victory.
Nate Navigato led Geneva with 19 points, followed by Chris Parrilli with 11. Ralston praised forward Mike Landi's rebounding and point guard Cam Cook maintaining offensive control against Quincy's zone pressure.
"It was a great team effort, everybody contributed," Ralston said. "It was just a great experience for all our young men."