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The number may seem fairly low as far as the accolade is concerned — 72 career wins.
But Aurora Central girls basketball coach Mark Fitzgerald became the program’s all-time leader in victories with Tuesday’s 39-37 nonconference win over Glenbard East.
“It was nice to be recognized,” Fitzgerald said.
That was about all Fitzgerald wanted to say about the honor after the Chargers nearly coughed up the lead in the final minutes. The Chargers (12-11), winners of four of their last five games, held a 31-23 lead going into the fourth quarter before Glenbard East sophomore Allison Hansen went off.
She scored the Rams’ first 10 points of the quarter to help Glenbard East tie the game at 35-35 with 3:08 to play. ACC took the lead on a lay-up from Katie Soris and two free throws with 1:24 left from freshman Veronica Lavia, who was playing in her first varsity game after participating in her first varsity practice Monday.
“We have a lot of faith in her,” Fitzgerald said.
The Chargers were shutting down the Rams on the defensive end and appeared to have the game in hand before Glenbard East (1-19) came alive in the final 10 seconds. Hansen (team-high 13 points) scored off a steal and layup to cut the lead to 39-37, then the Chargers turned it over immediately on the inbounds pass.
Glenbard East couldn’t get anything going, so the Rams called a timeout with three seconds left. On the ensuing play, Hansen missed a three at the buzzer to give the win to ACC.
“Going into the stretch drive, we have to play better than we did,” Fitzgerald said. “We weren’t clicking on all cylinders tonight, but at least we had enough to get through.”
ACC scored the first eight points of the game, but Glenbard East methodically climbed back into the game, finally taking an 18-17 lead with 5:45 left in the third quarter. That’s when ACC senior Alex DeCraene exploded to put the Chargers back in control. She scored 12 straight ACC points to help the Chargers to a 31-23 lead after three quarters.
“She’s a leader,” Fitzgerald said. “She’s been through this now for three years on the varsity. The kid’s a winner and I’m going to miss her tremendously when she’s gone.”
DeCraene led all scorers with 18 points then immediately looked ahead to Wednesday night’s rematch with Rosary. The Royals won the first match-up, 42-34.
“Basically, I just wanted to win,” DeCraene said. “That was my goal today. I saw Rosary in the stands and we’re playing them tomorrow night. We lost to them the first time. It kind of hurt when we lost to them the first time. Beating them tomorrow night would make me feel better.”