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Joliet Catholic didn’t defend Aurora Central sharpshooter Sean Harreld well during the first half of Tuesday’s nonconference game in Aurora.
Making matters worse for the Hilltoppers, they had absolutely no answer all evening for Phil Schuetz.
The Chargers needed nearly all of a career-high 34 points from Schuetz to hold off a steady and unhurried rally by the Hilltoppers to claim a 51-47 victory.
Aurora Central (7-7) led by as many as 15 points in the first half, but Joliet Catholic received a huge effort from Ryan Peter (13 points) in the third quarter. Peter connected on his fourth jumper of the quarter with 1:55 left to draw the teams even at 40-40.
“They’re scrappy and they shoot the ball well. Plus, they are patient,” Chargers coach Nate Drye said. “We knew (Peter) was really good. They’d take time off the clock, we’d chase and then they’d hit (Peter) in the high post.”
Joliet Catholic (4-15) took its first lead at 43-42 with 5:53 left in the fourth quarter when senior Shakar Washington split a pair of free throws.
The game seemingly slowed to a halt for the next four minutes. The Chargers finally broke the lull when they scored for the first time in the quarter on a fadeaway jumper by Schuetz.
The Hilltoppers reclaimed the lead at 45-44 on a pair of free throws by Washington with 52 seconds left, but they quickly fouled Schuetz 12 seconds later. He not only sank both shots from the charity stripe, but he also stole the ensuing inbounds pass and turned it into a three-point play layup and a 49-45 lead.
“(Schuetz) made several big plays down the stretch,” Drye said. “I think that was the difference in the ball game. He made a couple huge steals and that big pull-up jumper.”
Joliet Catholic had its chances late, but committed three turnovers in the final 36 seconds.
“I didn’t think the game was lost on those turnovers,” Hilltoppers coach Joe Gura said. “I thought it was lost during our terrible first quarter and a half and the fact that they have a couple really good offensive players and they got the ball to them.
Schuetz was responsible for scoring all 16 second-half points for the Chargers. His teammates only went 0-for-5 from the field in the second half.
The Chargers came out sizzling, making 9-of-13 field goal attempts in the opening quarter. Harreld (15 points) drained his fourth three-pointer in as many tries with 2:23 left in the quarter.
“We just weren’t able to keep up the intensity and they made some good changes in the second half,” Schuetz said. “We just need to play harder and protect a big lead.”
Zach Flint scored the only other field goal for the winners.
Senior James Ragen added 12 points and Keith Craig had nine for Joliet Catholic.