Marengo fends off Aurora Central's comeback bid
Sometimes a final score offers a false impression on a basketball game.
For the record, Marengo improved to 27-3 with a 54-34 victory over Aurora Central Catholic during Tuesday night's Class 2A regional semifinal clash.
However, this wasn't your typical 20-point triumph.
Playing on their home floor, the 7th-seeded Chargers (13-19) gave the No. 2 Indians all they could bargain for throughout the first 29 minutes.
Trailing 38-23 after 3 quarters, the Chargers opened the fourth period with a flourish, as Dylan Bryant canned a 3-pointer before Danny Cwinski buried back-to-back 3s to make it 38-32 with 6:41 remaining.
When Bryant split a pair of free throws on the Chargers' next possession, ACC trailed 38-33 with 6:27 left.
"The game went exactly how we wanted it to go," said Chargers coach Nate Drye. "We wanted to be in the game and give ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter."
The score remained 38-33 for the next 3-plus minutes before senior guard Brady Cannon (8 points) knocked down a cold-blooded 3-pointer from the corner to make it 41-33 with 3:17 remaining.
"We had three or four looks when it was 38-33," said Drye. "We would have cut it to a 2- or 3-point game."
Instead, the Chargers hit the proverbial wall, as the Indians closed out matters with a 16-1 surge over the final 3:17.
"They hit the shots they needed to get back in the game," Marengo coach Nate Wright said of the Chargers. "They were fighting like crazy until the very end. We did enough to kind of build a lead and then we lost some of it but kept our composure enough to not lose it all the way."
Sophomore guard Matt Volkening, who scored a game-high 21 points, hit 4 free throws and teammate Evan Shepard added a pair of foul shots as the Indians pulled away late.
"It was rough at times," said Volkening, who scored 9 points during the Indians' 17-9 run in the third quarter. "We weren't really closing out (on their shooters) very well, especially me, but we started picking it back up and getting it under control."
Junior guard Mitchell Kunde added 11 points off the bench for the Indians, while junior guard Michael Jennett added 4 points, 11 rebounds and 3 steals.
Marengo will face Wednesday's Wheaton Academy-Lisle winner in Friday's 7 p.m. championship game.
Volkening, who hit three 3-pointers, added 5 rebounds while capturing the first postseason win of his young career.
"We lost to Genoa-Kingston (53-38) in our regional opener last year," said Volkening. "This is exciting."
Cwinski led ACC with 14 points, while Bryant added 8 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists, and senior Colin Dean had 8 points.
"They're obviously a very good shooting team," Drye said of the Indians. "We wanted to kind of limit the amount of shots that they got.
"I think we expended a lot of energy when we ripped off that 10-0 run after being down 15 to start the fourth quarter. We had three guys (Cwinski, Dean, Bryant) who played the whole game, which is hard. It's not an excuse -- it's the reality of the situation.
"I couldn't have been prouder or our kids. It just didn't work out."