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Boys basketball: Josh McAuley shines inWest Aurora win

Updated: February 3, 2013 9:48PM

Let Josh do it.

That was the name of the game Friday for the West Aurora basketball team, which turned to 6-foot-7 center Josh McAuley with leading scorer Jontrel Walker struggling to find his shot.

It was a wise decision, as McAuley responded with a career-high 29 points to lead the visiting Blackhawks to a 55-37 DuPage Valley Conference win over Glenbard North in a game that was tied 24-all at the half.

“He really took over in the second half, and he also kept them in it in the first half,” said Panthers coach Joe Larson, whose team fell to 8-10 overall and 4-6 in the league.

It was McAuley or virtually nothing for West in the first quarter. He made four mid-range jumpers to keep West close after senior guard Ryan Storto hit three straight three-pointers to open the game for the Panthers, who led 12-9 heading to the second period.

“I feel like my offensive game has improved and my jump shot has been improving. Most of the time teams leave the elbow (free throw line and side of the key) open, so that’s a good shot if I can knock it down,” said McAuley, who finished 12 of 16 from the floor.

He opened the third quarter with a flourish, scoring on a three-point play on a twisting drive to the basket from the side of the lane. He followed with the Blackhawks’ third offensive board for a putback on the next possession and after a reverse layup by Walker, took a nice feed from Spencer Thomas and scored, got fouled and made the free throw for another three-point play.

“Coach (Gordie Kerkman) said at half that I had the hot hand so to keep giving me the ball,” said McAuley, who had eight points in the Blackhawks’ 10-1 run that opened the second half.

McAuley had 13 points in the third as West (18-3, 9-1) opened a 43-32 lead to take control. He added nine rebounds and four blocked shots. Walker, who averages 19 points, finished with nine, matching fellow guard Jayquan Lee (eight rebounds).

“He’s working hard in practice with the different drills we do,” said West assistant coach Dan Batka, who works primarily with the Blackhawk bigs. “I’d like to take credit but it falls on his shoulders and he’s only scratched the surface.

“He had a breakout game here last year and I mentioned it to him before tonight’s game that he should close it out with a good one here and he kinda took it to heart.

“What you don’t see is the contributions of a guy like (backup center) Rey Acevedo. Rey does all the dirty work in practice and really pushes Josh. To make Josh a better player, Rey has to play hard.”

Storto was the Panthers’ lone player in double figures, finishing with 13. Junior Justin Jackson, a 6-1 guard, had nine points and 10 rebounds but the Blackhawks claimed a 45-30 advantage in rebounds and limited the hosts to 12 of 51 shooting from the floor (24 percent), while hitting 22 of 51 (43 percent).

“Shooting like that, you’re not gonna get a win against a good team like that,” said Larson. “(West) does a lot of things well.”

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