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Boys Basketball: East Aurora just misses upset in overtime

Updated: December 29, 2012 12:13AM

There’s power in preparation.

East Aurora certainly proved that Friday night in the final round of pool play at the 47th East Aurora Holiday Tournament. With two days to look at Pleasure Ridge Park (Ky.), the Tomcats took the floor ready against a team that had defeated Oswego East and Belvidere North by 37 and 55 points, respectively, in its first two games.

It almost paid off, too, as the Tomcats rallied back from eight points down in the fourth quarter and had a three-point lead after DeJon Talbert hit two free throws with 15 seconds to play. But Panther guard Antonio McDaniel’s off-balance three with 7.9 seconds to go in regulation forced the game to overtime, and Pleasure Ridge Park escaped with the 66-63 win.

The Panthers, 3-0 in Red Division play, will meet Neuqua Valley in tonight’s 7:45 title game, while East, 1-2 in the tournament, will play Geneva for fifth place at 4:30.

“I can’t say enough about how these guys fought the whole game and how they executed the game plan the coaching staff put together,” said East coach Wendell Jeffries. “They bought into it, even when we got down double-digits. We hit some big shots, and everyone stepped up.”

The visitors from Louisville play with relentless pressure defensively and run on offense at every opportunity, and came into the contest averaging 90 points per game in tournament play and 77 during the season.

The Panthers (10-3) seemed on track for those numbers again when they moved to a 37-31 lead at the break, but scored just 18 second-half points while shooting 30 percent from the field.

East trailed 46-38 to start the fourth, but opened the quarter on an 11-0 run to take a 49-46 lead on an old school three-point play by Talbert with 3:27 to go. The lead changed hands three more times before a Fred Reynolds basket and Talbert’s free throws gave the Tomcats the 55-52 lead in the closing seconds.

They defended McDaniel’s game-tying attempt well, but even several hands in the junior guard’s face didn’t keep him from rolling in the shot that made it 55-all and set up the extra session.

“The guy did what he wanted him to do at the end,” Jeffries said. “We worked the ball down the court to take time off the clock and they didn’t run what they wanted to run, they just threw up a desperation shot. We were one desperation shot away from beating a very good team.”

Talbert continued his solid play in the tournament, scoring a game-high 27 for East, while Jonathon Villezcas added 22 and Fred Reynolds 10. LaMontray Harris led four Panthers in double figures with 16.

“I thought we had them, the crowd got into it, we got into it, and we were ready to play,” said Villezcas, who grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked three shots. “We played hard, but that shot killed us. These guys are good but we showed we can be a good team too.”

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