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Aurora Christian's Cory Windle drives to the basket with Joliet Catholic's Keith Craig defending during the 2nd annual Burney Wilkie Classic on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media
First-year Aurora Christian coach Pat McNamara returns to familiar territory Friday when his Eagles travel to neighborhood rival Aurora Central, where he served as an assistant to Chargers coach Nate Drye the previous three seasons.
“Nate’s a friend of mine. He’s got a great sense of humor and he does a great job,” McNamara said. “They graduated some good players last year, but they got out of the gate quick until they ran into Wheaton Academy last week.”
McNamara knows that challenge. His 3-3 team got off to a fast start, winning three of four in its own Thanksgiving tournament before opening Suburban Christian Blue play against two-time defending champ Wheaton Academy and St. Francis, which is expected to challenge the Warriors for the crown. The results were 69-54 and 73-49 losses, respectively.
“Those teams are tough. They took us to the woodshed, but our guys are improving,” said McNamara, who believes some of his players are still getting their basketball legs under them after their state championship run kept them on the football field until Nov. 23.
“I think we’ve got a ways to go, but we’ve had four days of practice this week and that’s what we really needed,” continued McNamara, who notes he’s made more changes on the defensive end of the floor than on offense.
The Eagles are playing more man-to-man than in the past.
“That’s a big change but we’ve got athletes who are hard-nosed kids who are competitive and they’ll get better at it,” he said.
Cory Windle averages a team-high 13.5 points per game and is one of three players in double figures. He’s joined by Johnathan Harrell (12.3) and Ryan McQuade (10.7).
Harrell, a junior wing who did not play football, leads with 8.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals.
Point guard is key
ACC is off to a 5-2 start — 1-1 in the league — paced by Sean Harreld (17.5 ppg through 5 games) and Shawn Soris (11.3), but McNamara points to senior point guard Anthony Andujar.
“He came up to the varsity down the stretch of his sophomore year and played well,” McNamara said. “He’s a hard guy to press. He’s a one-man press breaker, he’s so low to the ground it’s hard to take it away from him. He’s the key for them.”
Andujar had a 9.5 scoring average with 5.3 assists for the Chargers through five games.
West seeded third
West Aurora has been seeded third at the 16-team Pontiac Holiday Tournament, which will be played Dec. 27-29.
Simeon, ranked No. 1 in the state and seventh in the nation by USA Today, gets the nod at No. 1 as it shoots for its third straight tourney title in the 82nd edition of the oldest Christmas Tourney in the country.
Peoria Manual (7-0) is seeded second and 0-2 Curie grabbed the fourth seed.
“We’ve been going down there since 1970 or ’71,” West coach Gordie Kerkman said. “It’s a great tournament. I like it because you get good competition and you get to face teams from different regions with Chicago, suburban and downstate schools.
“Some years it’s the best (Christmas) tournament in the state. It used to be all the time but Proviso West probably has more good teams and it might take a backseat to Proviso this year.”
Pontiac officials only seed four teams then place the others to fill out the bracket and said this year the next 12 teams are all pretty evenly matched. Kerkman’s Blackhawks open the first day at 10:30 a.m. against Lockport, a team they will play later this year in a nonconference matchup.
“Usually they try to set the pairings so teams from the same conference or teams that may already be scheduled to play each other don’t face each other until the later rounds, so I’m a little surprised to see Lockport in the first game,” said Kerkman, whose team won the title in 1990 and has been runner-up four times (1972, ’83, ’95 and ’96). Four times the Blackhawks have won the consolation title.
For ticket information, go online to: pontiacholidaytournament.com.
East Aurora’s game Saturday at Bartlett does tip off at 4:30 p.m. The girls teams from both schools are scheduled to play the late game, beginning at about 6 p.m.