West Aurora dumps Lincoln-Way East to reach sectional final

By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/7/2018 10:34 PM

Ben Young, Traevon Brown and Damian Virgen truly epitomized that basketball is truly a team sport.

The three starters for the West Aurora boys basketball team all turned in head-turning performances in the Blackhawks' 70-58 victory over Lincoln-Way East at the second Class 4A Romeoville sectional semifinal on Wednesday night.

The triumvirate combined for 54 points as West Aurora won its 16th consecutive game to secure a championship berth against top-seeded Bolingbrook on Friday.

The second-seeded Blackhawks (24-4) ended the No. 3 Griffins' season at 23-6.

West Aurora never trailed after Brown and Virgen had field goals on consecutive possessions to stake the squad to a 30-28 lead at halftime.

The Blackhawks' slim advantage at the intermission was a feat in itself as star guard Camron Donatlan and instrumental starting center Jared Crutcher missed a combined 20 minutes and 15 seconds of first-half action with two fouls apiece.

"They are our superstars," said Young, who finished with 16 points. "I had to do something. (The other players) had to pick up the slack."

"It was a matter of stepping up," said Virgen, who had a team-high 21 points with a series of slashing drives and pullup jumpers.

"We prepare for stuff like that (key players sitting out) in practice," said Brown, the Blackhawks' junior point guard who finished with 17 points.

Latrone Kirkwood and Moshe Rogers, the Blackhawks' sixth- and seventh-men, respectively, both failed to score.

But the two West Aurora reserves consumed valuable minutes with intangibles during the prolonged absence of Donatlan and Crutcher.

"I thought the second quarter was the key to the game," Lincoln-Way East coach Rich Kolimas said.

With Donatlan and Crutcher returning to the fold in the third quarter, the Blackhawks struck with a quick vengeance to seize command.

With unrelenting offensive rebounding -- the Blackhawks enjoyed a 14-2 advantage in second-chance rebounds -- as its linchpin, West Aurora opened up a double-digit lead behind more balanced scoring from Virgen and Young.

The latter and Brown combined for six 3-pointers; Virgen, meanwhile, illuminated the Blackhawks' quickness advantage across the starting lineup for the two teams.

"I just saw the lanes," Virgen said. "They weren't as fast as I am. We were crashing the boards (in the third quarter) and trying to put them away."

Lincoln-Way East essentially stayed competitive by hitting 25 straight free throws from the opening minutes to the its final push.

But Brown typified the play of the less-celebrated West Aurora starters by scoring 7 consecutive team points to open the fourth quarter.

"My coach (Brian Johnson) always tells me, 'If they're not going to guard you, make them pay,' " Brown said. "I knew I could hit those shots."

Sam Shafer, who led both teams with 23 points, had a 4-point play -- Crutcher was disqualified on his fifth infraction -- with one minute, 58 seconds to play.

But the Griffins' 6-point deficit soon swelled as Donatlan -- the fourth West Aurora starter in double figures with 12 points -- had a breakaway dunk with Lincoln-Way East in full-court press mode.

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