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West Aurora fights back in second half

12/08/2012, 1:55pm CST
By Rick Armstrong rarmstrong@stmedianetwork.com

West Aurora picked up its defensive intensity to rally for a 63-53 DuPage Valley Conference win over host Naperville Central.

Naperville Central's Austin Pauga and West Aurora's Spencer Thomas dive for a loose ball in Naperville on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media

Patience is a virtue on offense is one of the themes often preached by West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman and it was evident his team got the message Friday in a 63-53 win at Naperville Central.

“It was a 10-point game but I thought it was a lot closer than that,” Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said.

Naperville Central (3-3, 0-2 Du Page Valley Conference) led 16-10 after one quarter and 29-23 at intermission thanks to hot shooting sparked by 6-foot-5 swingman Austin Pauga, who had 13 of his team-high 22 points at the break.

Pauga finished 5 of 10 from beyond the three-point line for the game. Naperville Central made 11 of 22 shots in the opening half. The Redhawks sank just 8 of 27 field goal attempts in the second half, though, and were outscored 40-24 — including 21-12 in the decisive fourth quarter.

“The first half I felt we were impatient offensively and they showed an awful lot of patience,” Kerkman said. “I thought at times we played pretty good defense and they didn’t panic. We normally don’t give up 29 points in a half. I think it was a credit to them and the way they were playing.”

The third quarter, though, was a different story. West Aurora (5-1, 2-0) reeled off an 8-0 run early on and were sparked by 6-7 senior center Josh McAuley, who had four of his five blocked shots in the quarter.

“(McAuley has) gotten a lot better,” said Naperville Central’s 6-9 junior Nick Czarnowski, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. “He’s a threat defensively. That was clearly evident as we had to make sure we were getting good shots as we tried to maneuver around him.”

A McAuley steal helped cap that third-quarter run as he tipped the ball to Matt Williams, who fed Jayquan Lee for a layup that gave the Blackhawks a 31-30 advantage, their first lead since they scored on the opening possession of the game.

West Aurora, which made 10 of 28 shots from the floor in the first half, made 13 of 25 in the second half.

They were led by junior guard Jontrel Walker, who put up a game-high 24 points, 17 in the second half, including 7 of 8 from the free throw line.

“We lost our intensity, lost our edge, in the second half,” said Czarnowski.

Spencer Thomas added 10 points while McAuley (seven rebounds) and Chandler Thomas had eight points each.

Still, West Aurora led only 57-53 on a layup by Walker with one minute left in the game. After a Central miss, Walker made a pair of free throws with 46 seconds left and came up with a steal with 36 seconds left.

Spencer Thomas then gathered a feed from his brother Chandler on the baseline and dropped in a layup that Kramer felt sealed it, although Lee added a steal and Walker scored on a putback for the final margin.

“I think that was the difference, our defense in the second half,” said Kerkman.

“We feel maybe next time we can go over there and get ‘em,” said Kramer, whose team opened the DVC schedule with a loss at Glenbard East. “We’re learning what our strengths and weaknesses are. I thought we really battled in the first half and really got after it defensively. It’s something we’re contining to strive to get better at. They made a run on us and we were in a dogfight again.

“I was very pleased with the way we took care of the ball, too, except for a couple unforced turnovers late in the game.”

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