Belleville West ends West Aurora's run
NORMAL -- The unblemished calendar year West Aurora enjoyed vanished in a hurry against Belleville West Tuesday night.
Making its 16th program appearance in a boys basketball supersectional since 1973 at Illinois State University, West Aurora fell behind early and never recovered in an 81-43 loss to the powerful Maroons, who remained undefeated against in-state competition this season.
In ending the Blackhawks' 17-game winning streak, Belleville West (30-2) never trailed in advancing to meet Larkin Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Peoria in the first Class 4A state semifinal.
West Aurora had its season come to an end at 25-5.
"They came out right away, and it was like if they weren't making it, they were rebounding (the misses)," West Aurora coach Brian Johnson said of Belleville West.
The game was truly decided in the opening half as the Maroons -- with the exception of turnovers -- took command in building a 37-17 lead after two quarters.
Belleville West was unrelenting on the backboards, racing to a 31-11 rebounding advantage.
"Even their guards got offensive rebounds," West Aurora star center Jared Crutcher said.
In scoring 11 of the last 12 points before the intermission, Belleville West framed its first-half play by harassing West Aurora into missing 22 of its first 28 shots.
The Maroons' formidable combination of size and athleticism across the board was further translated in a whopping 56-14 superiority in total points scored in the paint.
"We couldn't get our plays going (offensively)," said West Aurora standout guard Camron Donatlan, who never stopped playing hard in scoring a team-high 22 points. "They were just so big there down on the glass."
In fundamental respects, Belleville West turned the tables on the Blackhawks, who used second-chance points as well as balanced and inside scoring in playing flawless basketball since the Pontiac Holiday Tournament last December.
"(Our coaches) told us they were a great offensive rebounding team," said Belleville West forward EJ Liddell, the top-ranked junior in the state who led both teams with 26 points and 11 rebounds. "We came out and played our hardest."
"They proved why they're one of the best teams in the state, one of the best teams in the country," Johnson said.
After Belleville West scored the opening 5 points of the game, West Aurora would come no closer than when Traevon Brown opened the Blackhawks' scoring with one of their eight 3-pointers.
"We couldn't get into our offense right away," Johnson said.
As one-sided as the game became in the second half, Donatlan and Crutcher continued to expend energy on virtually every possession.
The Maroons dominated rebounding with a 53-25 advantage, but Donatlan, who connected on all four of his 3-point attempts, still managed to lead the team with 7 rebounds.
Crutcher had a lone field goal in his final game but led all players with 5 blocks.
Brown was the only West Aurora player other than Donatlan to score more than 3 points in finishing with seven.