Aurora Christian rallies to win 2A regional title
Trailing Northridge Prep 23-20 at halftime, Aurora Christian guard Taaj Davis knew he had to do something.
Normally a playmaker, Davis decided to switch his game in the second half and look to score.
It was a good decision.
Davis began looking for opportunities to score, and when the Knights defense gave him those chances -- which wasn't often -- the 6-foot-1 junior took advantage of them. Davis scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half and helped push the Eagles to a 50-45 victory in the Class 2A regional final in Niles.
"I knew that, being a three-year starter on this team, instead of distributing (the ball) I had take a leading role and score and get us back to our brand, where we belong," said Davis.
Eagles junior forward Will Wolfe led all scorers with 22 points and had 8 rebounds.
Aurora Christian (24-7), which has won four of its last five, will meet Uplift, a 60-45 winner over the Latin School, at the sectional on their home court at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Brendan Conroy's 16 points -- four 3-pointers and four free throws -- paced the Knights (21-10), who also got 15 from Ryan Menocal. Sean Holohan drained a trio of treys in the first quarter, but the Eagles put the clamps on and held him scoreless the rest of the night.
The game was, in many ways, a tale of two halves. Both were gritty, physical and defensive in nature. But in the opening 16 minutes Northridge, which had virtually no inside game to speak of, was 7 of 12 from 3-point distance. That spelled the difference for the Knights and helped them forge their halftime lead.
But it was a key intermission adjustment by Aurora Christian coach Dan Beebe that made the difference for the Eagles -- and an adjustment that must have really gotten the attention of the boys from Aurora.
"The adjustment was we went zone, and we are not a zone basketball team," Beebe emphasized. "It was a 1-2-2, and we probably played about 1 percent of zone all year -- and probably not even that much. Northridge played a 1-3-1 zone in the first half, and we hadn't faced that all year. I knew coming in it was going to be tough. That's a very different zone, and it took some adjustments to figure that out. Once we figured it out we started attacking it pretty good.
"And Taaj showed why he's all state. He didn't play super well in the first half, didn't get a lot of shots to go down, but he hit a really big shot down the stretch when we were down one."
That shot Beebe referenced was likely the fulcrum point of the game.
After Wolfe scored inside to put Aurora Christian up 42-35 with 5:33 left in the fourth, Conroy calmly nailed back-to-back 3-point bombs to cut the lead to one halfway through the period.
On the Knights' next possession, however, Conroy was off the mark on three straight threes made possible by a pair of scrappy offensive rebounds by Temi Creppy. Finally a foul was called and Ahmed Manzoor hit a pair from the charity stripe to give Northridge the lead at 43-42 with 2:49 left.
Fifteen seconds later, Davis found himself alone at the top of the key and icily drilled the 3-pointer Beebe heralded to put the Eagles on top, 45-43.
That was still the score with 39.4 left when Davis made 1 of 2 from the charity stripe to extend the lead. He hit two more freebies with 3 seconds to play to seal it at 48-45 before Wolfe dropped in a layup as the clock expired to make it 50-45.