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Boys basketball: East Aurora bounces back from slow start

Updated: December 26, 2012 10:58PM

Eight minutes into Wednesday’s game with Belvidere North in the opening round of the 47th annual East Aurora Holiday Tournament, East coach Wendell Jeffries wasn’t a happy man.

His Tomcats had played poorly on defense, allowing the Blue Thunder to score 21 first-quarter points while hitting seven shots right around the basket. An attitude adjustment was in order for the hosts and they responded, holding North to just 11-for-38 shooting and 35 points the rest of the game en route to a 73-56 win.

“We had no energy at the start,” Jeffries said. “After the first quarter I thought we controlled the rest of the game. We picked up the defense and got on them. We focused and really played hard.”

Trailing by as many as six (26-20) in the second quarter, the Tomcats reeled off an 18-3 run over a span of four minutes, capped by a long 3-pointer by DeJon Talbert with 2:54 to go in the half to take a 38-29 advantage. Tyree Willis ended the quarter with his only two buckets of the game, and East took a 42-34 lead into the break.

That lead later stretched to 15 (56-41) in the third quarter after a layup by Fred Reynolds with 56 seconds to go, then went as high as 20 in the fourth when Reynolds canned two free throws to make it a 69-49 game with 3:14 left.

“Coach wasn’t satisfied (after the first quarter) and we had to play harder,” said Talbert. “We tried to make him happy by playing better defense. We hit some shots and people started feeding off of each other.”

Talbert led the way for East with a game-high 24 points to go along with six assists, five steals and four rebounds. Reynolds posted career-highs in points (19) and rebounds (11), while Jonathon Villezcas tossed in 10 points to give East three players in double figures.

East (3-9) won its second straight game and broke a five-game losing streak in its own tournament, having not won a game since going 3-0 in pool play in 2010.

“We’re just focusing on this year,” Jeffries said. “It was good to win the opening game and kept us in position to win the championship. Any time you win your first game you still have a chance for the big prize.”

Todd Berkanpas led North with 15 points and Devan Glenn added 13. The Thunder will take on Pleasure Ridge Park (Ky.) in the second round of pool play Thursday at 6 p.m., while the host Tomcats will meet Oswego East at 7:45.

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