East Aurora had no choice but to gamble.
Ryan Thomas and Quentin Payne made the Tomcats pay the piper.
The St. Charles North duo, with the North Stars nursing a one-possession lead with 6.1 second remaining in the schools’ Upstate Eight Conference boys basketball crossover, had a flawless collaboration.
Thomas hit Payne with a baseball-like pass, and the North Stars’ senior guard thundered home a two-handed dunk with two seconds remaining to accentuate the North Stars’ 55-50 victory Thursday night in St. Charles.
“It was a great way to end (the game),” said Payne, who scored 8 of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter. “(Thomas) is great at throwing the long (pass).”
The game was close the entire way as neither team led by more than 6 points.
There were eight ties, but it was a pair of unlikely reserves who played critical roles for the North Stars.
After not even seeing any action in the opening half, which ended in a 22-22 deadlock, St. Charles North sophomore Jack Callaghan, the sixth player off the North Stars’ bench, drained a 3-pointer with three minutes and 39 seconds remaining to give the home team the lead for good.
“It was all Tony (Neari),” Callaghan said. “He created the whole play. It changed the momentum of the game.”
Neari, the North Stars’ point guard, then made a dazzling play on the ensuing possession to double the St. Charles North lead to 45-41.
Chasing down a loose ball, Neari made a darting, behind-the-back dribble to score an easy deuce.
Jake Ludwig, another St. Charles North reserve, also came up big with two huge scores down the stretch.
“We got good production off the bench,” St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said.
Ludwig also had a key stretch as the North Stars had to contend with Jonathan Villezcas’ monster final quarter for the Tomcats.
The East Aurora forward scored 11 of his team-high 17 points; Villezcas’ 3-pointer halved the North Stars’ largest lead of the game, 47-41, with 48 seconds to play.
But the Tomcats (3-17) would come no closer as St. Charles North (11-7) had Neari and Goetz convert 4 combined free throws in the last half-minute.
“It’s a good to get a win,” Poulin said. “It wasn’t our best defensive effort.”
Fred Reynolds’ 11 first-quarter points enabled East Aurora to overcome an early deficit; leading scorer TaJon Talbert was the third Tomcat in double figures with 12 points.
But the other five East Aurora players to see action had a combined 7 points.
“I thought they did a great job of bouncing back from that bad loss (to archrival West Aurora on Saturday),” East Aurora coach Wendell Jeffries said. “That shot No. 32 (Callaghan) hit was huge. That was the shot we wanted him to take.”
Neari finished with 12 points for the North Stars.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.