Aurora Christian found itself in a familiar position in the fourth quarter of the Class 1A Somonauk sectional championship game Friday night.
Just two nights earlier on the same court, the Eagles trailed by 6 points against 29-3 Annawan, then ended the game sinking a pair of 3-pointers to tie the score before Will Wolfe drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the win.
Aurora Christian again was down to Newark on Friday, but this time the 3-point shots just didn't drop. The Eagles missed seven straight with the game on the line, and the Norsemen, who started the fourth quarter up 38-36, were able to hold onto the lead the rest of the way for a 53-47 victory in front of a standing-room-only crowd in Somonauk.
"They did a good job forcing us to shoot the outside shot and for whatever reason we didn't shoot well tonight," Eagles coach Dan Beebe said. "You aren't going to beat a team of that quality when we don't shoot well from the perimeter. We just didn't have it tonight."
Newark (27-4) will play Colfax Ridgeview in the Class 1A Illinois State University supersectional Tuesday. Aurora Christian, who entered the game 13-1 in its last 14 games, ends its season at 21-9.
The Norsemen also did a great job defensively against the Eagles leading scorer Jake Wolfe who finished with 7 points before fouling out in the final minute.
"He's a good player, I've known him awhile, we played together back in the day," said Newark senior Will Clausel. "He's really good. We just tried to take him out of the game. I thought we did a good job. They have a good team and that was a good win."
Dylan Patrick helped Newark get off to a quick start, scoring 7 points in a 9-0 run to open the game. Will Wolfe finally got Aurora Christian on the board with a steal and pass ahead to Jake Wolfe for a layup with 2:30 left in the first quarter.
That turned out to be the Eagles' only points as they trailed 9-2 after one.
"I think we looked a little nervous," Beebe said. "We kind of came out a little tentative. They came out aggressive."
The Eagles looked like a different team in the second quarter, going on a 19-3 run to take their biggest lead at 19-12. Will Wolfe twice had steals he converted for layups, and Will Wolfe, Jake Wolfe and Tanner Dissell all buried 3s.
"We looked a little bit dazed and then we got ourselves back together," Newark coach Rick Tollefson said.
That the Norsemen did, pulling within 21-19 by halftime and then taking the lead for good in the third. Trailing 33-27, Dissell drilled a long 3-pointer, and Will Wolfe followed with two of his own, but Clausel's late basket sent Newark to the fourth ahead 38-36.
Jake Wolfe ended the third quarter with an off-balance 3 while falling out of bounds from 35 feet away only to be called for traveling just before he released the shot.
Dissell connected on another 3 early in the fourth, making it a 40-39 game. Aurora Christian went ice cold after that, and Newark gradually built its lead as the Eagles started fouling.
Down 50-44 with 50 seconds left, Will Wolfe finally ended the drought when he made a 3-point shot while being fouled. He couldn't get the free throw to drop for the 4-point play, and Beau Brown and Patrick hit 3 of 4 free throws to ice the game.
"The reality is it's a great high school game and unfortunately we came out with a loss," Beebe said.
Will Wolfe led Aurora Christian with 8 rebounds; the teams finished tied 25-25 rebounding and 13-12 on turnovers.
Newark held quite an advantage at the line making 21 of 28 to the Eagles' 7 of 14.
"We took care of the ball in the second half and defensively we were solid all night," Clausel said.
Patrick (18 points) and Clausel (14 points, 7 rebounds) led Newark while Will Wolfe scored 17 points and Dissell had 12 for the Eagles, who had five freshmen and sophomores on their young 10-man team this season.
"If you had said at beginning of the year we would be 21-9 I probably would have taken it," Beebe said. "Especially when we started out 8-7. We are looking forward to the future but this is a hard one to swallow."