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West Aurora's Jayquan Lee draws a foul from Naperville North's JP Riley in Naperville on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2012. | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media
There was some discrepancy Saturday about the number of free throws West Aurora usually shoots in practice, but there can be no doubt that whatever the amount, the practice is working.
The Blackhawks made 15 of 16 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter, including their last 11, to pull away late and knock off host Naperville North 68-56 in a key DuPage Valley Conference game.
Overall, West Aurora (11-2, 5-0) sank 23 of 31 foul shots while Naperville North was 11-for-15.
“We take pride in our free throws,” West Aurora guard Jontrell Walker said. “We take time out of practice every day and we get about 100 free throws. We really take our pride in them to make sure we’re really good at them.”
West Aurora coach Gordon Kerkman questioned that number but not the effectiveness of his foul shooters.
“I don’t think we shoot 100 but we take a lot of free throws in practice,” Kerkman said. “We’ve been playing pretty good in the latter part of the ballgame.”
That was the case here. The Huskies (10-5, 3-2) got a go-ahead three-pointer from Brendan Herbstritt late in the third quarter and took a 46-44 lead into the final period, only to be outscored 24-10.
Walker, who scored a game-high 22 points, sank the last of his four three-pointers to put the visitors ahead to stay, 47-46, and after that it was mostly missed shots by the Huskies and made free throws by the Blackhawks.
After missing his only free throw attempt in the first half, Walker went 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter. Center Josh McAuley also heated up, going 0-for-2 before intermission but 9-for-9 in the final stanza.
McAuley finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Jayquan Lee had 11 points and Spencer Thomas eight for West Aurora, which held the Huskies to 3-for-14 shooting and forced six turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“Coach told us to stay with our man and stop gambling so much,” Walker said. “Once we did that, we forced a lot of tough shots and we made sure we got good rebounds.
“We’ve played better but we’ll just take the win tonight. I think it was an overall good team effort. Everybody played their role and everybody did their job tonight and we’re just happy we got the road victory.”
As was Kerkman.
“It was a tough ballgame,” Kerkman said. “The kids played hard and played pretty tough defense. Our kids, when they set their minds to it they can get after it.
“Our M.O. has really been playing sort of a weak first half and then coming back and playing strong in the second half. We sort of put four quarters together tonight. It may not seem like it but Naperville North has got a good ballclub.”
Herbstritt and Derek Westman scored 13 points each to lead Naperville North, with Westman adding nine rebounds and three assists.