With shots falling through the net on both sides and the crowd roaring, one could have easily thought the varsity players were the ones on the floor of Ernie Kivisto Memorial Gymnasium.
But it was just the JV players, with South Elgin hitting a last second 3-pointer to win it, setting the stage for what would be an entertaining night of basketball on both ends of the court.
Spoiling senior night for East Aurora, the Storm’s varsity was able to come back and hit just enough free throws down the stretch to take out Upstate Eight Valley foe East Aurora 84-78 on Monday night in Aurora.
With over 70 combined points scored in the first half alone, the game got off to a quick start for the home team with Fred Reynolds slamming home a dunk for East Aurora’s first points of the game, having an already buzzing crowd go wild, something Tomcat coach Wendell Jeffries admits hasn’t happened a lot this year.
“It was fun, we got to go out and play and got the crowd into it, and we haven’t really had that this year at home,” Jeffries said. “Our guys were really focused because it was senior night. They made a couple of nice plays and made it fun.”
Both sides battled back and forth, exchanging the lead five times before the first buzzer sounded when the game started to slip away from South Elgin.
After scoring a season low 45 points Saturday against Geneva, the Storm (14-14, 4-8) looked to be in a much better position offensively, thanks in large part to Darius Wells who had 11 of his game-high 20 points in the first half. But the Storm had trouble slowing down East Aurora.
“We were trying everything we could to try and get a stop, trying to get something that looked right,” Storm coach Matt Petersen said. “We were throwing guys in and out just trying to find something that worked and we’ll keep doing that and keep playing until we find something that’s doing well.”
The Storm still had trouble slowing down Reynolds, who had 6 his team-high 18 points in the second frame, along with teammates Johnathan Villezces (14) and KeJuan Davis (15) who each scored 4 in the quarter, but were able to counter with McClure and Matthew Smith, with each netting 4 points as well, but the Storm was down by 3 at the half.
The same story unfolded in the third quarter as well, with both teams going on runs and trading shots with East with Daishon Smith scoring all 5 of his points in the third and Adrian Smith netting 4 of his 15 in the quarter.
South Elgin had McClure, who poured in 6 on his way to 19 for the night, and Andrew Kaminske scoring 9 to try and keep it close, but South Elgin still found itself down by 5 going into the final quarter.
“We faced a pretty good team tonight, so coming out of the locker room we talked about just winning the quarter, which we did,” Jeffries said. “We’re up five on our home court and in a good position to win it, but we made too many mental mistakes down the stretch.”
With the Tomcats’ (5-19, 2-10) offense starting to slow down, South Elgin took advantage and was able to hit 3 3-pointers in the fourth to break a deadlock with 1:50 left on the clock. The Storm then made 6 of 8 from the free-throw line to secure the victory.