PONTIAC — Considering their first-ever boys basketball matchup was prominently featured in a recent nationally aired documentary, it was only fitting West Aurora and Simeon met in the championship game of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament Saturday night.
Just like their epic encounter at the 1984 Class AA state semifinals — which ESPN documented with its '30 for 30' biography of the late Ben Wilson — the results were the same for West Aurora in the form of a 60-47 loss.
With four Division I recruits, headlined by Duke-bound all-American candidate Jabari Parker, Simeon used its perimeter acumen and its formidable size and strength to subdue a determined Blackhawks group.
West Aurora (10-2), making its first finals appearance in nine years, used sheer tenacity to stay competitive throughout an exceptionally well-played first half by both teams.
The Blackhawks, despite serious height disadvantages, dominated the backboards, using a 10-2 plurality in second-chance points to take the lead on several occasions in the opening half.
“It seemed like all we could get were second-chance points,” West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman said. “We couldn't get any first-chance points.”
“We weren't blocking out,” said Jaylon Tate, one of two Illinois-bound guards in the backcourt for Simeon. “We were trying to leak out early and get easy baskets.”
“They wanted it a little bit more than us,” Simeon coach Rob Smith said of the Blackhawks' peskiness.
But every West Aurora opportunity to take leads of any significance were routinely negated by the Wolverines' 3-point accuracy.
Simeon, with Parker, the unprecedented three-time MVP of the tournament who led all players with 14 points, hit four 3-pointers in the opening half.
West Aurora was also victimized by foul troubles to its two most important players: post Josh McAuley and point guard Jontrel Walker.
McAuley, whose extraordinary play at both ends resulted in first-team all-tournament status, missed most of the second and third periods with fouls.
“You can't coach height,” McAuley said of the matchup difficulties his replacements faced. “I thought (the third foul on a moving screen) was a horrible call. Their man knocked me into his own man.”
Roland Griffin drained a 3-pointer for West Aurora to conclude the first half, which ended with Simeon leading 30-26.
But Kendrick Nunn, the Wolverines' other Illini recruit, opened the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers.
Conversely, West Aurora seemingly could not buy a perimeter field goal after the intermission.
“I thought we had a lot of good looks,” Kerkman said. “When you're playing against a team 6-(feet)-8, 6-7, 6-7, 6-4 and 6-3, you're not going to get a lot of layups.”
McAuley and Walker were the Blackhawks' scoring leaders with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
“We played in the championship game at Pontiac — that's a major accomplishment,” McAuley said.
Walker was second team all-tournament, and senior Spencer Thomas was honorable mention.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.