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West Aurora prevailed in ‘84 matchup

01/23/2013, 7:01pm CST
By Rick Armstrong rarmstrong@stmedianetwork.com

Former West Aurora standout Kenny Battle remembers his team downing St. Joseph’s in the third-place game of the IHSA Class AA State Tournament.

Kenny Battle remembers it well.

The former West Aurora standout was a key player in the only matchup between legendary high school coaches Gordie Kerkman and St. Joseph’s Gene Pingatore. It came March 24, 1984, in the third-place game of the IHSA Class AA State Tournament.

“One thing I remember, there was so much trash talking on the floor, but I don’t think the coaches knew,” said Battle, who still considers St. Joe a city school despite its Westchester location.

“(Players from) City schools were always talking stuff to the suburban schools.”

Battle scored a game-high 25 points and guard Randy Norman added eight in the 55-54 Blackhawks’ win as West rallied from a 35-32 halftime deficit. St. Joe standouts Chris Funchess had 20 points and Tony Freeman added 12.

“I’ve seen Tony and Chris over the years and we always talk about that game,” said Battle.

The second half was a defensive battle with the Blackhawks outscoring the Chargers 16-15 in the third quarter and 7-4 in the fourth to eke out the win.

“You had to really work to get a basket,” said Battle. “Fortunately, we made some free throws.”

Well, just enough.

Funchess, an all-tourney selection like Battle, was one of two St. Joe players to foul out and West made seven of 13 free throws. The Chargers made six of 11 and that was the difference since each team had 24 field goals.

The 3-pointer wasn’t instituted until the following season.

Ben Wilson-led Simeon, which had topped West 67-58 in a semifinal earlier in the day, would beat Everette Stephens and Evanston 53-47 in the title game afterward.

“We knew only two teams would get to win their last game and we wanted to be one of them,” said Battle, who went on to star at NIU and Illinois before being drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by Detroit.

“David (Lee), Dan (Jensen), Kenny (Page) and Randy, all those guys came through in the clutch.”

Battle now can only marvel as he watches Kerkman and Pingatore still prowling the sidelines.

“You’ll have two legendary guys doing battle (on Saturday),” he said. “Combined, they have a lot of wins and they’ve coached a number of Division I prospects, NBA prospects. They’re two guys who love the game of basketball and just love teaching it. … It’s amazing the way they continue to coach and continue to produce good teams year in and year out.

“They might be old-timers, but they’re still going at it and they’re still young at heart. They eat, drink and sleep basketball.”

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