In a supersectional played in front of a packed house at Hinsdale Central Tuesday night, Proviso East’s star-studded lineup included a Division I guard Paris Lee going to Illinois State and the brother of NBA guard Shannon Brown — Sterling Brown — who is headed to SMU.
Those two certainly played excellent. Lee finished with 16 points and 3 steals while Brown scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half helping the Pirates overcome an early 7-point West Aurora lead for a 62-52 victory.
But as good as those two were — and Lee’s performance had his coach Donnie Boyce calling him the best point guard in the state — more than one observer left Hinsdale saying the best player on the floor Tuesday was wearing the Blackhawks’ No. 52 white jersey.
Josh McAuley capped his phenomenal rise through his four years at West Aurora by doing everything he could to keep the Blackhawks in the game. He scored 22 points, snatched 16 rebounds and swatted 4 blocked shots.
He scored in transition on dunks, he hustled for putback baskets and when the Blackhawks were trying for a late charge he drained two 3-pointers. The first came on a step-back move you’d expect to see from a flashy shooting guard, not West Aurora’s 6-foot-7 center, and the next swished while he was falling out of bounds deep in the corner.
“I saw him over the summer, I saw his improvement,” Boyce said. “Didn’t expect those 3s he hit late in the game but at this time of year everybody wants to win. I told the guys with four or five minutes left the game’s not over. They are going to make one more run.”
Playing the best must bring out the best in McAuley who made the all-tournament team at Pontiac in December joined by players like Jabari Parker, Cliff Alexander and Kendrick Nunn.
“He did have a great game,” West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman said. “He had a heck of a game. Josh is capable of that, and that’s against pretty good competition too.”
McAuley finished his senior season with what is believed to be a West Aurora record 104 blocked shots. He averaged 13.4 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Just as his numbers soared from his junior to senior season, McAuley elevated his play in West Aurora’s second straight run to the supersectional. He had 18 points and 8 rebounds while holding Geneva’s leading scorer Nate Navigato to 5 points in the Blackhawks’ regional championship victory.
McAuley followed with 14 points in a 61-60 upset over No. 1 seed Oswego, scoring the winning basket on a dunk with 20 seconds to go and then saving the victory with a blocked shot in the closing seconds.
Next came a physical battle with 6-foot-9 center Sean O’Mara from Benet, and McAuley double-doubled him with 11 points, 11 rebounds plus 4 steals and 2 blocked shots to give the Blackhawks a 42-38 sectional championship win.
As strong as he played in those three wins, McAuley was even better Tuesday. And he did it in the same game that a year ago saw him get ejected when he exchanged shoves with a Proviso East player in the third quarter.
“I think I improved a lot from the last time we played them last year, but overall it comes down to win the game,” McAuley said. “I wish we could have played better on the offensive end and the defensive end. You wish you could have played better. I just wish we would have won.”
McAuley might join Lee and Brown as Division I players but his first stop will be at a junior college. Some of the best JUCO schools are recruiting him, and it’s not hard to picture McAuley with the way his game keeps improving playing in many more March Madness games at the collegiate level in a couple years.
Kerkman certainly can.
“I think mostly because of maturity (he improved),” Kerkman said. “He’s become much more of a shot blocker this year, and he’s been shooting the ball much better this year. I don’t think you have seen the best of him. I think Josh can make even bigger strides yet when he goes to college.”
Follow John Lemon on Twitter @jlemonDHCopyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.