On an offensive rebound and putback with 1:35 left before halftime on Tuesday, Juwan Starks became West Aurora's all-time leading scorer.
The 6-foot-3 senior forward finished with a team-high 17 points for a four-year career total of 1,627 points, and he would have traded in a dozen of them to get past Proviso East on Tuesday night.
"Right now I really just don't care," Starks said. "No disrespect to (former record holder) Billy Taylor, but right now I'd rather have that win than have that record."
At the Class 4A Hinsdale Central supersectional, Proviso East took a 19-12 lead after a quarter and held on, defeating the Blackhawks 62-51 to advance to Friday's state semifinals against Rockford Auburn, a 49-43 winner over Warren in DeKalb.
A year ago, Pirates coach Donnie Boyce was helping Triton College finish third in NJCAA Division II. Tuesday, overcome by emotion, he was being hugged by the likes of his former 1991 state championship coach at Proviso East, Bill Hitt.
"So many people tried to write me off, and the closest people to me always told me I could do this, I should go back and do this," said the moist-eyed Boyce, whose alma mater heads downstate for the first time since 1993.
"Though I had aspirations of being a pro coach it just feels right right now to exceed everybody's expectations. Because I don't think nobody, in year one, ever expected us to be right now 31-0, guaranteed a spot in state. But also, we want to win it. That job's not done yet."
Boyce said the Pirates' "M.O." was a fast start, the exact fear - as well as Proviso East's quickness and defense - of West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman.
Though Jayquan Lee canned a 3 on the Blackhawks' first shot of the game, it came in between 3's by Paris Lee and Paris Burns. Designing the defense to control penetration by St. Louis-bound point guard Keith Carter, Kerkman later said it was a pick-your-poison proposition between defending the paint and the perimeter.
"I told them that our objective was to keep them out of the lane," Kerkman said. "If they hit a few 3s we're just going to have to stay with it, unless they really start bombing them. And they started missing after awhile, and that's when we started climbing back in."
Not until after Proviso East had forced 15 first-half turnovers and West Aurora (25-6) found only 2 first half shots for Starks, both makes.
"That's one of the things that really disappointed me, that we couldn't get into our offense and our shot selection wasn't real good," Kerkman said.
Helped by Proviso East's 2-of-8 second-quarter free throw shooting, the Blackhawks trailed 29-21 at halftime.
"I think we came out ready, but we weren't ready for what they had," said West Aurora point guard Jontrel Walker, who scored 12 points. "Once we got into the game, into the flow, I think we adjusted great. We came along and we started fighting back."
In a third quarter that saw words and shoving between Proviso East's Trashaun Carroll and West Aurora's Josh McAuley, then their ejections, the Pirates led 36-25 before West's Spencer Thomas hit a basket and Starks 2 free throws to creep within 38-29.
Proviso East, led by Carter's 19 points and Paris Lee's 12, allowed West Aurora within 10 points several times in the fourth quarter, but never led by less than 7. Two Walker free throws, a Thomas lane jumper and a Starks 3 from the left elbow had West within 54-47 with 1:39 to play. Proviso West then forced Blackhawks turnovers on the next two possessions and extended the lead to 11 with 58 seconds left.
"Couldn't make stops," Kerkman said. "And when we did make stops we seemed to turn the ball over."
Thus ended West Aurora's most successful playoff run since their Class AA quarterfinal season of 2006.
Starks will take his career scoring record to college with him and shooter Brandon Gossett will graduate, but Walker, Lee, McAuley, Spencer and Chandler Thomas, Aaron Kennebrew, Booker Ross and others will try to keep the hot streak going.
"It's a good feeling to come back knowing we're only juniors, and then trying to make another run at it," Lee said.
West Aurora High School
Proviso East High School
Conference: DuPage Valley
- Looking back at the best of the season
- Proviso East's pressure gets to West Aurora
- Images: West Aurora vs. Proviso East
- West Aurora's McAuley shines once again
- Careers come to a close for West Aurora's Lee, Thomas twins
Conference: West Suburban Gold
- Edwardsville edges Proviso East for third place
- Parker, Simeon advance to Class 4A finale
- Sixth sense says Simeon will be tough to beat
- Images: West Aurora vs. Proviso East
- West Aurora v. Proviso East: Live stream of game