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Practice made perfect for St. Charles North in pulling out a 55-50 victory Thursday over East Aurora in an Upstate Eight crossover game.
With 5.1 seconds left, the visiting Tomcats were hoping for a steal and to force overtime, but the North Stars executed a long bomb off the inbounds for a Quentin Payne dunk that put the punctuation mark on the five-point triumph.
Payne took the ball from the official and instead of inbounding, he passed to his right to Ryan Thomas, a catcher for the North Stars, who fired a pick-off style inbound that Payne took in stride and jammed.
“Tommy created that whole play. I hit him on the baseline and was ready to break downcourt,” Payne said. “It was a great way to end (the game). Tommy had a great throw and just like the game, everyone did their part.”
Added St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin: “We work on situation stuff at the end of every practice, and it obviously paid off. This wasn’t our best defense, but we were still able to get a win and it’s always good to get a win. (East Aurora plays) hard, and with their length and athleticism they caused us a lot of problems.”
The North Stars (11-7) jumped out to a 5-0 lead before settling for a 15-14 first-quarter lead which was essentially the Fred Reynolds Show for the Tomcats. The junior had 11 of his 16 points in the opening eight minutes. After a 22-all halftime deadlock, the contest was knotted at 34-all heading into the fourth quarter.
“We really wanted to bounce back bad,” East Aurora coach Wendell Jeffries said in reference to the Tomcats’ 78-45 loss last Saturday to rival West. “Reynolds had a mismatch and kept on driving. We’ve got four or five guys who can lead us, (DeJon) Talbert came up a little short of his average, and (Jonathan) Villezcas did a nice job.
“We simply had some crucial mistakes down the stretch, like a missed layup,” Jeffries added. “We were up one, and their No. 32 hit a huge three. That was probably the play of the game.”
East Aurora (3-17) had just taken a 41-40 lead on an old-fashioned three-point play by Reynolds when Jack Callaghan drained a three with 3:34 to play. Buckets by Thomas and Payne gave North a 49-43 lead with 57 seconds left, and then Tony Neari and Alec Goetz converted one-and-one opportunities to help set the stage for the clincher after a Tomcat putback by Villezcas.
In addition to Payne’s team-high 17, Neari added 12 for St. Charles North, while the Tomcats also had 17 from Villezcas on top of twin-digit efforts from Reynolds and Talbert (10).
ST. CHARLES NORTH 55, EAST AURORA 50
East Aurora (3-17)
Talbert 3 2-2 10, Velasquez 1 2-2 5, Gant 0 0-2 0, Reynolds 7 2-2 16, Villezcus 8 0-0 17, Willis 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 6-8 50.