High school sports dynasties: Boys No. 9, West Aurora basketball
Editor's note: The Daily Herald is counting down the Top 10 boys and girls high school sports dynasties over the past 20 years, two at a time. We continue today at No. 9 with Geneva girls basketball and West Aurora boys basketball.
The West Aurora boys basketball program opened this century by winning a state title.
Two decades of consistent, winning basketball followed.
Former coach Gordie Kerkman's team won the first Class AA state championship of the new millennium with a 2000 victory over Chicago power Westinghouse. That team was led by Austin Real, Jamall Thompson, Louis Smith, Mike Fowler and Derik Hollyfield.
Though the Blackhawks have not reached that mountaintop since, they've flirted with the summit. The program advanced to the state finals in Peoria in 2001, 2004 and 2006, returning with a third-place trophy in '04.
West Aurora's overall record is 448-105 since Jan. 1, 2000. Over that span the program has made a habit of winning sectional and regional titles. Nine sectional plaques and 14 regional plaques have been added to the trophy case. "Gordie's teams were outstanding," said West Aurora coach Brian Johnson, who was handed the reins in 2015-16. "He not only had talent, he was able to manage that talent and get them to fit into his system of being great defensive teams. They played a certain way offensively where he never really showcased one player but there were dominant players within the system and they had continued success."
Postseason success continues unabated. In March, the host Blackhawks entered regional play as the No. 14 seed after winning only 9 games. Led by senior Kelvin Balfour, they upset No. 3 seed Waubonsie Valley 47-41 in the playoff opener. They subsequently knocked off No. 11 Plainfield Central to win their fourth straight regional title under Johnson, who hopes to maintain the tradition Kerkman established.
"That 2000 team was unbelievable," Johnson said. "I think that really showed what Gordie's program really was and still continues to be: selfless players who do their job, play tenacious defense and do anything to win. It doesn't matter if it was the best player diving on the floor; there are no prima donnas. I'd like to think we're continuing that."