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Boys Basketball: West Aurora loses ground to Glenbard East

Scott Miller had seen this act before and the Glenbard East coach knew the finish wouldn’t be for the faint of heart. He was dead on.

Elusive West Aurora guard Jontrel Walker somehow beat a double-team, got down the lane and managed to throw up a contested off-balance floater that could have tied the game Friday night, only to have it roll off the rim as time expired.

It allowed Glenbard East to escape with a 58-56 win and claim a one-game lead at the mid-point of the DuPage Valley Conference race.

The Rams, 11-5 overall, are 7-0 in the league. The visiting Blackhawks, who battled back from a 10-point third-quarter deficit to take a short-lived lead in the fourth, fall to 13-3 and 6-1.

“I think we settled down a little bit,” said West coach Gordie Kerkman, explaining how his team battled back from a 47-37 deficit.

“They got us going into their style of (uptempo) game,” he continued. “We were running down the floor and making a number of bad decisions on shots and maybe forcing a few passes.

“I told them we were not playing our game and if it continued, it could be a blowout. We settled down a little bit and got into our offense and made them play defense and then we picked up our defense.”

An 8-0 run to open the fourth quarter, sparked by six points and two blocked shots by center Josh McAuley, got the Blackhawks in what became a back-and-forth affair the final four minutes.

West took its first lead since midway through the second quarter when Walker (22 points) drove down the lane and dropped in a runner with 1:29 remaining to put his team up 54-53.

Senior guard Mike Kjeldsen answered with a 3-pointer for the Rams with 1:06 remaining. West’s Jayquan Lee made a pair of free throws and the Rams’ Jaron Hall (16 points) answered with one of two with 28 seconds left to give his team a 57-56 lead.

Kerkman called time with 19.9 seconds remaining to set up a play for Walker, but Kjeldsen tipped the pass leading to a steal. Danny Ryan made one of two free throws with 9.4 seconds left to account for the final margin.

“When we had the 10-point lead we knew they were gonna make a run,” said Miller. “They’re too good not to. Fortunately for us, we were able to hold them off. We’ve been in a lot of situations (this season) where we haven’t finished ‘em off as well as we did tonight.”

Walker had eight of his team’s first 10 points as West opened a 10-2 lead to start the game, but East rallied to within 14-12 at the end of the quarter.

In the second, senior guard Tahron Harvey went off for the Rams. He hit six of seven shots and had 16 of his game-high 24 points as the home team built a 34-30 lead at the break.

“The first half was very well-played,” said Miller. “The second half was like a dogfight and we ended up making the last play.”

Senior Matt Williams and sophomore Roland Griffin (8 points) came off the bench and had some strong defensive play to help spark West’s comeback.

The 6-foot-7 McAuley finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists, but easily could have three more assists if his teammates had been able to finish a few more shots.

Either team could have wrapped it up earlier. Glenbard East went 10-of-18 from the free throw line while the Blackhawks made 10-of-17.

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