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With the amount of weapons Aurora Christian has at its disposal this season, if the Eagles follow coach Pat McNamara’s mantra, it could be a very entertaining year at Christian.
“That’s a big thing for us this year, we’ve got some guys that can score,” McNamara said. “You have to be a team-first guy. You’ve got to be unselfish and see the open man. Fortunately the first two games, we have been.”
The Eagles used superior ball movement, hot outside shooting and a huge rebounding advantage to fend off a hot-shooting Joliet Catholic squad and post a 77-65 win at the Burney Wilkie Classic Wednesday.
Senior Johnathan Harrell and junior Wes Wolfe combined for 13 assists and the Eagles shot 9-for-19 from three-point range, while picking up a 36-to-17 rebounding edge along the way.
“We played well tonight, together as a team,” said Wolfe, who scored a team-high 18 points in the win. “We’re looking forward to seeing where we’re going to go with it.”
As hot at Aurora Christian (2-0) was offensively, JCA (0-2) was even hotter. The Hilltoppers shot a blistering 13-of-23 from three-point range to stay in the game despite how well the Eagles were playing. Two threes from Jalen Jackson and one from Nick Dalesandro in the second quarter gave the Hilltoppers a 32-27 lead.
“The thing I like about it, for a young team, we took good shots almost the whole game,” JCA coach Joe Gura said. “That’s one thing I look at. If you’re taking good shots, that’s half the battle.”
Christian closed the half on a 13-4 run to take a 40-36 lead into the break. The lead extended to 48-38 with 6:45 left in the third quarter after threes from Harrell and Zach Singer and a layup from Steve Buhrt. JCA kept nipping at the Eagles’ heels thanks to hot shooting, however, cutting the lead to 70-65 late in the fourth quarter.
But the Eagles scored the final seven points, five coming from Buhrt to go with a Harrell rebound put-back, and the Eagles were able to spread it out and ice the win.
“We made some shots, got it down to five, but we couldn’t get the big stop,” Gura said. “Once they spread us out, it was really difficult.”
Buhrt scored 17 points to go with a game-high seven rebounds for the Eagles. Harrell scored 14 and R.D. Lutze scored 11 before having to go to the hospital after a hit to the face late in the game.
“They have weapons everywhere,” Gura said of Christian. “Coach does a real good job. He’s got two outstanding offensive players and he puts them in a position where you can’t help and shade to them because other guys can hit shots too.”
The Hilltoppers were led by Jackson, who scored a game-high 23 points. Dalesandro added 15 points and Colton Kolowski scored 14 for JCA.