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Naperville Central's Mike Blaszceyk drives to the basket against West Aurora defender Joshua McCauley on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media
With a lot riding on the outcome, West Aurora stepped up in the fourth quarter Tuesday and came from behind to claim a 57-52 win over Naperville Central.
“We knew they were a game behind us [in the DuPage Valley Conference standings] and we knew we had to step up in the second half after playing a not-so-good first half,” senior center Josh McAuley said after leading the winners with a game-high 19 points.
Despite turning the ball over eight times in the opening quarter, the visiting Redhawks took a 10-6 lead on a Nick Lopez three-pointer for the only points in the final 90 seconds of the period.
Central led 19-15 at the break and 39-33 after three quarters, thanks to balanced scoring. The Redhawks, who drop to 13-8 overall and 6-3 in the league, had four players finish in double figures, led by Mike Blaszczyk with 13. Nicky Lopez had 12 and Ryan Antony and Nick Czarnowski added 11 each.
A McAuley putback followed by three-pointers from Jontrel Walker (18 points), Spencer Thomas and Walker again gave the Blackhawks an 11-3 run to open the fourth quarter for a 44-42 lead, their first since midway through the second quarter.
“We had pretty good ball movement in the second half and turned it over only four times after turning it over nine times in the first half. That had a lot to do with it,” said West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman, whose team climbs to 17-3 overall and keeps pace with Glenbard East atop the league standings at 8-1.
“If you get good ball movement, you sort of freeze the defense a little bit.”
Holding onto a 52-50 lead with 70 seconds remaining, the Blackhawks executed a textbook press break from midcourt that demonstrated that ball movement.
Guard Jayquan Lee inbounded to Walker in the backcourt, who found forward Chandler Thomas near midcourt. He hit brother Spencer Thomas at the top of the key who found McAuley open on the baseline. McAuley made a layup, was fouled and completed the three-point play.
The ball touched the floor just once on the dribble with four well-thrown passes helping to seal the win.
Antony made a layup and stole the inbounds pass with 8.9 seconds remaining but Blaszczyk’s contested three-pointer bounced off the rim to Spencer Thomas who hit his brother with an outlet pass for another layup to beat the buzzer and account for the final margin.
“We just didn’t make ‘em,” said Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer. “We needed a couple big baskets to fall and we had open looks late in the game but couldn’t get them to fall.”
After shooting 15 of 30 from the floor in the first three quarters, the visitors were held to three of 12 in the final period.
“I wasn’t displeased with our offense in the first half, I thought we got some good shots, we just weren’t knocking them down,” said Kerkman.