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Boys basketball: Aurora Christian downs H-BR at Plano

Hinckley-Big Rock's Zach Michels looks shoot as AurorChristian's Johnathan Harrell defends during quarterfinal actiThursday Plano Christmas Classic.  | Jeff

Hinckley-Big Rock's Zach Michels looks to shoot as Aurora Christian's Johnathan Harrell defends during quarterfinal action Thursday at the Plano Christmas Classic. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Plano Christmas Classic

Thursday’s results

Game 21 — Dixon 55,
Forreston 51

Game 22 — Sandwich 64,
Somonauk 43

Game 23 — Rockford Christian 46, Streator 38

Game 24 — Burlington Central 58, Princeton 32

Game 25 — Plano 49,
Genoa-Kingston 48

Game 26 — Lisle 58, Yorkville 55

Game 27 — Coal City 58,
Indian Creek 46

Game 28 — Mendota 82,
Wilmington 53

Game 29 — Aurora Christian 56, Hinckley-Big Rock 46

Game 30 — Belvidere 56,
Morris 46

Game 31 — Kaneland 54,
Newark 35

Game 32 — Ottawa 39,
Seneca 35

Friday’s games

Game 33 — Genoa-Kingston vs. Yorkville, 9 a.m.

Game 34 — Indian Creek vs. Wilmington, 10:30 a.m.

Game 35 — Plano vs. Lisle, 12:30 p.m.

Game 36 — Coal City vs.
Mendota, 2 p.m.

Game 37 — Hinckley-Big Rock vs. Morris, 3:30 p.m.

Game 38 — Newark vs. Seneca, 5:30 p.m.

Game 39 — Aurora Christian vs. Belvidere, 7 p.m.

Game 40 — Kaneland vs.
Ottawa, 8:30 p.m.

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Updated: January 29, 2013 6:36AM

Apparently the message from first-year coach Pat McNamara is sinking in.

Haydn McNelis came off the bench and provided a second quarter spark at both ends of the floor Thursday, lifting No. 13 seed Aurora Christian to a 56-46 quarterfinal win over No. 5 Hinckley-Big Rock at the 50th annual Plano Christmas Classic.

The Eagles trailed the Royals 18-13 midway through the second quarter when McNelis, a 6-foot senior, scored on a putback that started a 16-2 Aurora Christian run to close out the half. He capped it by swishing through a 3-pointer that beat the buzzer, giving his team a 29-20 lead.

McNamara has had his team switch from zone to man-to-man, and it was the key against the 9-3 Royals with guards Johnathan Harrell and Ryan Suttle doing a nice job of hounding H-BR’s leading scorers — Jared Madden and Bernie Conley.

McNelis also had four second-quarter steals that helped lead to seven H-BR turnovers in the pivotal period.

“We really picked up our defense in the second quarter,” McNelis said. “It’s a little different because we’ve been playing (zone) the last three years, but I think it’s a good change for us. We’re real athletic and we go pretty deep on our bench.”

Despite giving up 83 points to Mendota the day before, ACS limited Madden to seven points and Conley to five. They had combined for 51 the day before when the Royals put 88 up against Wilmington.

“We had the first quarter (leading 14-9), but then they had the stretch in the second which put us in a hole,” said H-BR coach Bill Sambrookes. “The second half was pretty much even.

“They did a good job of getting hands in the passing lanes. I told our kids we’ve got to give Aurora Christian credit, they did a good job of shutting down Jared and Bernie. It was hard for them to get open looks, and when they did, they were rushed because (the Eagles) were closing real nice.”

The Eagles, now 8-4 and winners of five straight, got double-figure scoring from four players: 15 from Cory Windle (9 rebounds), 11 each from Ryan McQuade (8 rebounds) and McNelis and 10 from Ryan Suttle, who made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 90 seconds to hold off the Royals.

“McNelis gave us a nice lift and we moved the ball down the court and shared it well,” said McNamara. “We’re sharing the ball a lot better than when we started the year and I thought the job Harrell and Suttle did on their two main men was the difference in the game.”

H-BR got 16 points each from 6-1 post Zach Michels and 6-3 forward Michael Bayler.

“That seeding was not a true measure of how they can play,” said Sambrookes. “(ACS is) coming off a state championship run in football.

“They were still playing football when other guys were playing in Thanksgiving tournaments. They’re getting in basketball shape and, as you can see, they’ve got great athletes.”

The win sends ACS to Friday’s 7 p.m. semifinal against defending tourney champ Belvidere, a 56-46 winner over Morris in another quarterfinal.

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