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Glenbard East celebrates a 76-75 double overtime victory against West Aurora at West Aurora High School in Aurora, Ill., on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. | Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT: .
For entertainment purposes, it would be hard to top the show West Aurora and visiting Glenbard East staged Wednesday night with the DuPage Valley title on the line.
This spectacle – the Rams’ 76-75 win in double overtime featuring multiple comebacks by each side – was the stuff of legends.
“I really don’t know what to say,” exhausted but ecstatic Rams coach Scott Miller said after his team finished the regular season 18-6 and 13-1 in the league. Glenbard East (19-6, 14-1) closes two games ahead of the runner-up Blackhawks (20-5, 11-3) and wins the league crown for the third time in four years.
“Two great teams, it was like a heavyweight battle, knocking us back and forth.
Glenbard East hero, senior guard Tahron Harvey, looked the part with a blood-soaked bandage covering the gash over his right eye that briefly stopped action late in the fourth quarter to stop the blood trickling down his cheek.
“I was dragging but I thank God for giving me the strength at the end,” said Harvey, who finished with a game-high 22 points.
More importantly, he did most of the Rams’ ballhandling late in the game then blocked a Spencer Thomas attempted game-winning jumper from about 13 feet out just before time expired in the second OT.
Senior center Brandon Havenga had given the winners the winning margin by sinking a pair of free throws with 15.3 seconds left. Harvey’s three-pointer with 54 seconds remaining had cut West’s 75-71 lead to one.
All of the OT action followed a frantic finish to the fourth quarter, which ended 63-all. The Rams’ Jason Hill threw up an off-balance three-pointer from near the top of the key to break a 60-60 tie with 5.7 seconds left.
Not to worry, West junior guard Jontrel Walker (29 points) took the inbounds pass and took a couple strides past midcourt and threw up a prayer from the wing that beat the buzzer and swished through.
West students, who stormed the court thinking Hill’s shot might have been a two, had to be cleared before play continued in the first four-minute overtime, in which each team scored three points.
“A tale of two halves,” said Miller. “In the first, they played great and we had some communication issues.”
West led 16-11 after one quarter and upped the margin to 36-23 at the break thanks to a strong quarter sparked by a pair of sophomores. Walker, who almost willed his team to victory later with a 20-point fourth quarter, sat most of the second after picking up his second foul. His backcourt mate, senior Jayquan Lee, left with 4:37 remaining after appearing to roll his ankle on a drive to the basket.
Forward Roland Griffin (four points) and guard Matt Dunn (six points) came off the bench to spark the Blackhawks with Dunn banking in a trey from the top of the key as time expired.
It was merely a portent of the fireworks that were about to come.
“We told the kids, ‘Don’t play timid,’” said Miller. “We felt we were in a good situation coming into the game because we had wrapped up a share of the title on Saturday and felt the pressure would be on them. We played in the first half like it was on us.”
Until the third period, which opened with senior guard Mike Kjesldson missing a three-pointer. The Rams then caught fire, making eight straight shots to go on a 23-7 run that included six treys from three different players and finished with a 30-8 advantage in the quarter and a stunning turnaround with a 53-44 lead.
“We have to play four quarters, and we did not come out to play in the third,” said West coach Gordie Kerkman. “We wanted to make them put the ball on the floor on those threes and I don’t think we did on one of them in the third quarter.”
Walker then shifted into amazing mode, accounting for 10 of West’s points in a 12-0 run to open the fourth that gave his team a 56-55 lead. He had a steal, blocked shot and rebound in that sequence, too, setting the stage for the final heroics.
“Kudos to him,” said Harvey. “Walker is an unbelievable player.”
“I’m proud of the kids and the way they came back,” said Kerkman. “It’s really rough on kids to put in that kind of effort and come up short.”
Center Josh McAuley finished with 15 points for West while Jason Hill and Maurice Grant-Clark each had 17 and Kjeldsen added 16.
Both teams are No. 4 seeds in their respective sectionals (Schaumburg for Glenbard East and Bolingbrook for West Aurora) and open postseason play next week.