PONTIAC -- West Aurora could ill afford to have its two most seminal players sitting on the pines with foul issues.
But Camron Donatlan and Jared Crutcher were forced to the sidelines less than a minute into the second quarterfinal of the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament Friday afternoon.
The Curie boys basketball team had its opening.
Less than two years removed from a Class 4A state championship, Curie had the first of two significant runs with Donatlan and Crutcher both on the bench after picking up a second foul.
Curie took the lead for good with the Blackhawks' two players idle midway through the quarter and used dominance on the backboards to record a 63-54 victory.
"We just kept getting fouls and fouls," said West Aurora junior guard Traevon Brown, who led the Blackhawks in scoring for a second straight game with 18 points. "We let our two most important players go to the bench -- and we were up."
"It takes away from rebounding and contested shots in the paint, especially with Jared," Donatlan said.
Curie had a 17-2 run as the Blackhawks went six-plus minutes without scoring from the field during the second quarter after early perimeter wizardry enabled the team to lead by as much as 7 points.
But West Aurora (8-3), which will play Bloomington in the fifth-place semifinals on Saturday morning, scored the last 4 points of the second quarter behind inside scores from Damian Virgen and Donatlan to trail 32-26 at the break.
But Donatlan, who barely played more than nine minutes, picked up two third-quarter fouls and was disqualified on his fifth foul 81 seconds into the fourth quarter.
To make matters worse for West Aurora, Curie (9-1), the second seed, owned the glass to the tune of a 54-27 advantage in rebounding.
"Looking back on it, I wish we would have pressured them a little bit more," said West Aurora coach Brian Johnson, noting the Blackhawks' 6 fewer turnovers. "We turned them over quite a bit. I thought we played good defense on the initial action. But they would go and get it. Fifty-four-27 on the glass. You are going to have a hard time winning it (that way)."
The Condors' Marquise Walker and Dajuan Gordon scored 19 points apiece to share game-scoring honors.
Virgen hit a 3-pointer on the opening fourth-quarter possession to trim the Blackhawks' deficit to 44-39, but Walker responded with consecutive jumpers as part of another 19-9 spurt.
Walker could sense the difference when Crutcher was absent.
"He is a freakish athlete," Walker said of Crutcher. "(The Blackhawks) got it our hard on offense and played good defense."
Ben Young and Virgen supplemented Brown with 12 and 10 points.