West Aurora rallies but can't catch rival East

 
By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 1/8/2022 9:24 PM

Seven combined players finishing in double figures?

A freshman emerging from obscurity to nearly tip the scales for the road team?

 

The schools' student sections trying to one-up one another on a frigid Saturday afternoon?

These ingredients essentially have one common denominator at a January boys basketball game in Aurora: yet another fabled encounter between two of the oldest high schools in the

state.

In meeting No. 229 at East Aurora, Jullian Acosta paced three other teammates in double digits with 15 points as the Tomcats led the entire way in a 67-61 victory over archrival West Aurora.

"This win tonight might be one of the most important wins in my life, especially since it fell on my birthday," said Acosta, who played an important role in the Tomcats' Class 4A Lockport sectional semifinal victory over West Aurora one day before the state pulled the plug on the 2020 playoffs.

The historic rivals did not play last season due to the vagaries of no longer being in the same conference.

The lingering impact of the pandemic was still evident in yet another barnburner as the East High administration limited seating capacity to 1,400 fans.

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The Tomcats (9-4) snapped a four-game losing streak in dropping the Blackhawks to 9-7. Exploiting 7 West High first-quarter turnovers, the Tomcats established a 34-28 lead at halftime.

But the Blackhawks' Ty Rogers made a personal statement with wide-ranging reverberations to end the second quarter and begin the third.

Rogers' 5 straight points before the intermission was stretched to 13 consecutive team points after the senior had three 3-point possessions to open the third.

It was Rogers' varsity debut in an East-West game.

"The coaches were getting on me," Rogers said of a slow start. "Through the game I was like, 'This is huge for us.' It shouldn't have been like that. At the end of the first half and beginning of the second half I got into my rhythm and let the game come to me."

Rogers' 22 points led all players.

Despite his personal brilliance, Rogers could not engineer a tying- or go-ahead score as the Tomcats tenaciously clung to the lead behind offensive rebounding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The teams were almost eerily identical in field-goal percentages as East was 26-for-53 to the Blackhawks' 25-51 marksmanship.

But the Tomcats' edge was maintained through second-chance points from the floor and free-throw line.

"Second-chance points and rebounding -- that's just wanting it," West coach Brian Johnson said. "All of their guys play so hard."

On six second-half occasions, West High had the ball and a potential chance to forge the first deadlock of the game.

But it was not to be for the Blackhawks, notwithstanding the play of Terrence Smith.

A freshman forward, Smith scored all 10 of his points after halftime.

"I always looked up to the series," Smith said. "I didn't think I could make an impact like that. I wasn't trying to force any shots and get the best look I could."

James Parker (13 points), Ralph Clark (12) and Jabian Acosta (11) were the other Tomcat leaders.

Kenny Weekly added 11 points for West.

In the schools' girls preliminary, balanced scoring carried the Blackhawks to a 70-56 triumph.

Aspen Weeks (17 points), Riley Mont (15), Bibi Mercardo (14) and Alexis Lamanna (10) carried the West Aurora banner.

Mia Moore pumped 35 points for East High.

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