Aurora Christian jumps on Kaneland early
As two-time football state champions, jumping out to a 2-touchdown lead is nothing new for Cory Windle, Ryan McQuade, Ryan Suttle and company.
It's not quite as common place on the basketball court, yet there were the trio of Eagles in the middle of Aurora Christian's 14-0 start against Kaneland Saturday night in the third-place game of the 50th annual Plano Christmas Classic.
Not until Tom VanBogaert's basket finally put the Knights on the board four minutes into the game did Kaneland end Aurora Christian's opening run.
The Knights played catch-up the rest of the night. They got as close as 7 points several times in the fourth quarter but couldn't overcome the dreadful start in a 54-46 loss.
"We told our guys we have to bring the energy as much as we can the first quarter and our guys did that," Eagles coach Pat McNamara said. "I thought that was the difference, got them in a hole a little bit and hung on."
Only Belvidere was able to solve Aurora Christian (9-5) at Plano. Windle led the way Saturday with 16 points, scoring on a couple 3-pointers, several transition baskets and a couple nifty moves in the low post.
"Bittersweet I guess," Windle said. "Yesterday we had a good chance to beat them (Belvidere) and didn't play well the first half. But third place is really good out of 24 teams."
Kaneland (6-6) had a rough shooting night, going 4 for 8 at the free-throw line, 4 for 19 (21.1 percent) on 3s and 19 for 50 from the field.
During the opening 14-0 run, Knights coach Brian Johnson called two timeouts within the first three minutes. The Eagles kept going, Windle closing the surge with a basket inside and then stepping back for a 3-pointer.
"We can't use that (four games in four days) as an excuse," Johnson said. "It's just a reflection of us not coming out ready to go. Probably took the majority of the first quarter and the second to get into it and wake up. We had our usual third and fourth quarter play hard and get back into it but we just didn't have enough at the end."
A 3-point basket from Tyler Carlson pulled the Knights within 36-24 at halftime. Neither team got much going in the third quarter which ended with the Eagles up 45-36.
McNamara took a page out of what he learned the last three years as an assistant at Aurora Central Catholic, switching to a zone at times in the fourth quarter. The Eagles only made 2 field goals in the final quarter, but Kaneland wasn't much better with just 10 points.
"Hanging around (ACC coach) Nate Drye three years I guess you play a little zone," McNamara joked. "It worked a little. We thought a little zone could change it up."
The teams tied in rebounds with 27; Drew David and Matt Limbrunner had 7 for the Knights, Suttle 7 for the Eagles. Suttle and Johnathan Harrell both scored 10 points, and both helped push the ball in transition which often ended with Windle finishing.
"Our guys do a good job getting the ball up court," said Windle who was joined by Suttle on the all-tournament team. "And they make smart passes. Our guys have such good hands and steal the ball so well and as soon as they grab it you just go."
Dan Miller was the only Knight in double figures with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting plus 5 rebounds and 3 assists and earned high praise from his coach afterward.
"I thought Dan and Cole Carlson played an excellent game today," Johnson said. "I thought Dan came out focused and ready to go. I don't think there's been a game in two years on varsity where Dan hasn't brought as much as he's physically capable of bringing. He may make mistakes which all the guys do but it's hard to get mad at a kid who leaves every single bit of energy on the court every single game. Probably his best high school game."
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