Aurora Christian wins 5th straight regional
This one was for the doubters.
And the Aurora Christian boys basketball team heard plenty of them.
The Eagles won their fifth straight regional title with a 73-48 victory over Mooseheart Friday.
Securing that Class 1A plaque was particularly satisfying for coach Dan Beebe and his players considering many wrote off the Eagles after leading scorers Will Wolfe (Oswego East) and Jaehshon Thomas (Whitney Young) transferred in the offseason.
The doubters got annoying.
"I heard it outside, in here, everywhere," said senior Karsen Olsen, who led all scorers with 21 points.
"I heard it constantly," said Aurora Christian guard Taaj Davis, who went from being a role player as a junior to the area's leading scorer as a senior. "I had schools constantly texting me, telling me to come to their school, telling me you've got to get out of there.'"
Why did Davis choose to stay?
"Just out of loyalty in my heart, he said. "I started here and I want to finish what I start regardless of what happens outside the lines."
Davis was limited to 2 first-quarter points on 1-of-6 shooting, but he sank 4-of-5 field goals over the subsequent eight minutes. The Vincennes recruit hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 12 of his 16 points in a second quarter the Eagles dominated 28-8 to take 38-17 halftime lead.
"I felt like we had a defensive lapse in that second quarter and dug ourselves a hole that was too big to get out," Mooseheart coach Pete Daneels said.
Not that the Ramblers didn't try. A late-third quarter push helped Mooseheart (19-9) cut a 22-point deficit to 15. They drew within 12 points on a 3-pointer by senior Joel Williams early in the fourth quarter.
"I told the guys I was proud of them," Daneels said. "They fought back."
The Eagles responded with a 3-pointer from Olsen and a putback by sophomore Danny New, one of three sophomores who played all season.
Aurora Christian advances to a Harvest Christian Academy sectional semifinal in Elgin on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Eagles will play Chicago Uplift (11-16), which defeated North Shore Country Day 57-47 to win the Westminster Christian regional.
The Eagles enter sectional play with conference and regional titles already in hand.
"Not only just that, but we're standing here at 21-6," Beebe said. "At the beginning of the year, you just didn't know. We were going to start three sophomores. We had two kids with extensive varsity experience back and that was it.
"You just didn't know what it was going to look like, but our seniors have held it together in terms of bringing these young kids along. They showed them how we run our program. They are an extension of us."
Williams paced Mooseheart with 17 points and junior Alfonso Bailey contributed 13 points.
New finished with 11 points, sophomore Daniel Walker scored 10 points, sophomore Drew Meyers had 8 points and sophomore forward Jabari Sisco added 7 points for Aurora Christian.