As time wound down in the third quarter, South Elgin's boys basketball team needed to create some separation during Friday night's game against East Aurora.
Trailing 34-33 with 1:39 left in the third quarter, South Elgin (10-3, 2-1) finally put together its first run of the game -- a 10-0 surge that catapulted the Storm to a 43-35 lead heading into the final period.
From there, South Elgin escaped the Tomcats' furious comeback bid down the stretch during its 60-54 Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division victory in Aurora.
"We stayed with what we were doing the whole game, getting up and pressuring a little bit," said Storm coach Brett Johnson. "We finally got the rotations correctly and we made them make a couple mistakes. That's what sparked that run."
Noah Rohr (8 points, 6 rebounds) began the run by knocking down a 3-pointer off a feed from David Binion to give the Storm the lead for good at 36-34.
After Rohr's turnaround jumper extended the margin to 38-34, junior guard Drake Montgomery tallied the final 5 points of the third quarter, including a 3-point play with 20 seconds remaining off a hustle steal and brilliant behind-the-back pass from teammate Trace Ashby near the scorer's table.
"It started with a three and a couple steals," said Johnson. "That's what we were looking for."
"We got the momentum going in the third quarter," said Montgomery, who scored a game-high 23 points. "That's a big point in the game -- the end of the third quarter going into the fourth quarter."
East Aurora battled back, trimming its deficit to 3 at 57-54 on a 3-pointer from Davonta Faulkner (15 points) with 27 seconds left before Montgomery's layup off a baseball-type pass from Binion with 18 seconds remaining sealed the decision.
"We did a great job of breaking their press," said Johnson. "We drew up the home run play and it worked. It got us the two points we needed and gave us a little extra cushion."
Junior Vince Miszkiewicz finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocked shots for the Storm, while Binion added 5 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and solid defensive play against Tomcats junior Jules Williamson (15 points).
"The stat sheet never shows it but Binion was just phenomenal," said Johnson. "The charge he had, the rebounds he was getting, and he made some good decision making on inbound passes, and not being bigger than the moment. He was invaluable."
Ashby contributed 6 points and 3 steals for the Storm.
"It was a great way to start the year," said Johnson. "That was a fun game to coach and watch the kids play. Every game should be like that the rest of the way."
South Elgin plays host to West Aurora next Friday night.