East Aurora ends West Aurora's surprise run
The famed West Aurora boys basketball program was the feel-good story of the Class 4A tournament last week.
But the Blackhawks' improbable postseason run came to a halt at the hands of East Aurora in the second semifinal of the Lockport sectional Wednesday night.
East Aurora powered past the Blackhawks 61-50 to advance to the final Friday night against top-seeded Joliet West.
The 14th-seeded Blackhawks -- and their all-senior starting five of Logan Mont, Kenny Dyson, Chris Nieves, Paul Shavers and Kelvin Balfour -- closed out the season at 11-20.
In the 229th meeting between the schools, East Aurora (23-10), the ninth seed, had two of the three unanswered first-quarter runs in the game to take the lead for good.
West Aurora scored 7 consecutive points after the Tomcats opened the fifth sectional game between the programs with the first 5 points of the game.
East Aurora guard Amarion Savage beat the first-quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer to close out the Tomcats' second 7-point unanswered blitz.
Savage, who led both teams with 20 points, then opened the second quarter with another 3-pointer.
The resulting 17-7 East Aurora lead was the first of multiple double-digit spreads for the Tomcats.
"It really got me going," Savage said of his consecutive field goals from beyond the arc to bridge the two quarters. "The second three felt natural. I have to give credit to Julian (Acosta) for the way he handled the ball and for getting us the shots we needed."
The back-to-back Savage 3-pointers would represent the entire number of long-range field goals West Aurora would convert.
Reserve Axel Motola and Dyson, who finished with 15 points for West Aurora, hit the only two deep perimeter shots for West Aurora in the second quarter.
The Blackhawks finished 2-for-17 from the 3-point line.
"I don't think we shot the ball well from the floor the entire game," West Aurora coach Brian Johnson said. "East Aurora played a perfect first half. (The Tomcats) took us out of everything we wanted to run."
Balfour posted the best all-around performance for the Blackhawks for the third straight time in the postseason as the forward closed out his career.
Whether blocking shots to trigger fast breaks, disrupting the passing lanes or leading West Aurora on the glass with 8 rebounds, Balfour led on the offensive end as well with 19 points.
But East Aurora expanded its 28-17 halftime lead with another spurt to start the third quarter to more or less settle the final outcome.
"It was tough for everything -- to get stops, to get the ball up the court, to make shots," Balfour said. "It was just a tough night. We were in scramble mode after we were down 18 (midway through the third)."