West Aurora is leaving the DuPage Valley Conference like it spent much of it -- as conference champions.
In its final game in the DVC before joining the Upstate Eight next year, West Aurora never trailed in a 70-43 win over Lake Park Wednesday that wrapped up a share of the title with Glenbard North.
West Aurora (21-5, 12-2) dominated the DVC in its early years but winning the title became harder as the seasons went on. The Blackhawks were in the conference 17 years and won 8 conference championships -- 7 straight from 1999-2000 to 2005-06.
This year's championship was their first in eight years.
"It's a sweet feeling," said the school's all-time leading scorer, Jontrell Walker. "We're just happy to be here. The last couple years we fell one game short and we lost in the last few weeks. Tonight we wanted to make sure we at least got a share of the title. We came out and played well and played hard as a team."
Late-season losses to Naperville Central and Glenbard North -- by a combined 3 points -- kept the Blackhawks from winning outright.
"It takes a little bit of the shine away the fact we had to share it but they (Glenbard North) earned it," West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman said. "They came over to our house and beat us and played very good basketball."
Asked if he has enjoyed being in the DVC, Kerkman said:
"Yes, very much so. It wouldn't hurt my feeling if we stayed but the Upstate Eight is a good conference and we enjoyed being in the Upstate Eight. I'm sure we'll enjoy being back in it.
"I like the competition in both of them. Everyone thinks the DVC is just a football conference. I think it's a pretty good basketball conference. Not as good as it is in football obviously but that shouldn't detract from basketball."
Lake Park (14-14, 4-10) played without its best player Marcus McDaniel (disciplinary reasons), who coach Josh Virostko said will be back for the postseason.
The Lancers trailed 19-10 after one quarter and 33-19 at halftime and it never got better from there. They shot decent at 43.9 percent, but the Blackhawks were better at 58.6, won the rebounding battle 28-16, and committed just 7 turnovers to the Lancers' 13.
"We just didn't play with a lot of heart and drive," Virostko said. "We got a little bit intimidated. Shooting one free throw shows how soft we played."
Walker led West Aurora with 21 points. He also made all 4 free throws to run his streak to 30 straight and 56 of his last 57.
Tommy Koth added 16 points, Carleton Williams had 9 and Matt Dunn and Roland Griffin both scored 7.
Dunn and Griffin also each had 5 assists -- one of them coming from Dunn to Griffin on a fourth-quarter alley-oop slam off a fast break started by a Williams blocked shot on the other end.
"We showed a little more patience on offense tonight," Kerkman said.
Tim Weiss entered the game in the fourth quarter and swished all three of his 3-point attempts to tie Michael Karas for a team-high 9 points.
"We didn't get a lot of leadership and when you are on the road you need a lot of leadership," Virostko said.
The record books will show Brandon Wyeth scored West Aurora's final points in the DVC with 2 free throws, though the ever-changing conference landscape allowed Kerkman this quip.
"Who knows, we may be back here before too long, the way things are going," Kerkman said.