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Boys basketball: DeJon Talbert gets first chance in rivalry game

East Aurora's DeJTalbert hits three-pointer Friday against NeuquValley. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

East Aurora's DeJon Talbert hits a three-pointer Friday against Neuqua Valley. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 19, 2013 3:01AM

DeJon Talbert figured his time would come in an East-West rivalry game. He just didn’t figure it would take this long.

“I think I owe them one, I didn’t get to play last year,” said the Tomcats senior guard, who attended the 31-point West blowout at NIU but didn’t get on the court because of a concussion he suffered against Proviso West.

“I was going on a fastbreak layup and a guy came in out of control and tried to block my shot,” remembers Talbert. “I hit my head on the backboard and then again on the floor. Things went black for a second. It gave me a good headache.”

He played in the sophomore games the previous two years and dressed for those varsity contests but didn’t see action.

“It gave me an inside look of how it is on the court,” Talbert said. “I remember watching East-West games in junior high and seeing how physical and fast-paced it was. I couldn’t wait to be able to play in it.”

The returning all-Upstate Eight Conference selection from a year ago leads East in scoring this season with a 14.1 average.

“He’s having a good year for us,” East coach Wendell Jeffries said. “He was all-tournament in our Christmas Tournament and is a tough player. Everything we do pretty much goes through him. He’s been a great leader. The team elected him one of its captains but he’s more of a leader by example than a verbal leader.”

Talbert and his East teammate have their work cut out for them, but don’t have to be told. They know they’re heavy underdogs in Saturday’s game.

The Tomcats are 3-14 heading into Friday’s Upstate Eight Valley game with Metea Valley while the Blackhawks are 13-2 entering Friday’s DuPage Valley meeting with Glenbard East.

“People are gonna doubt us,” Talbert said. “We want to serve notice we’re not easy to beat.”

Of late, that’s been true, despite the team’s record.

“That’s been the story for us lately,” Jeffries said. “Our last four games we’ve lost by three, three, seven and two points.”

The last one came Sunday (55-53) against Thornton Fractional South at a shootout at T.F. North, when it appeared Talbert had knocked down a game-winning three-pointer as time ran out.

He released the shot from the top of the key to beat the buzzer. It hit the rim and bounced straight up several feet, glancing off a guide wire attached to the pole holding the backboard that is used to raise and lower the rim, before falling through the basket.

Unfortunately, it had to be ruled a dead ball once it hit the wire.

“I didn’t see it hit the wire,” Talbert said. “I was hoping it went in, I don’t think I’ve done that (hit a last-second shot) since middle school.”

Come Saturday, he’d like nothing better than to erase last year’s memory.

“I was there. It hurt to watch my team go out there and try to get in the fight and I wasn’t there to help,” he said. “It kinda hurt to see that but there was not much I could do.”

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