Aurora Christian avenges St. Francis setback

Every time St. Francis made a comeback attempt, Aurora Christian had an answer during Friday night's Metro Suburban Blue basketball clash in Wheaton.

Led by senior Brayden Hatch's game-high 23 points, 5 rebounds and a pair of steals, the Eagles (17-7, 5-3) pulled away down the stretch for a 57-46 victory.

"Brayden had a big game for us," said Eagles coach Dan Beebe. "He hit some huge shots."

Perhaps none bigger than the 3-pointer Hatch buried from the corner that helped the Eagles extend their lead to 45-37 with 3:26 remaining.

"They (Spartans) cut it to five there but in those times, I try not to stress out," said Hatch, who shot 7-for-11 from the field, including a blistering 4-of-6 from 3-point range. "You've got to relax, keep everybody patient, and let the shots come."

Hatch also played an instrumental role during the Eagles' 19-10 second-quarter surge that led to a 28-19 halftime advantage.

The 6-foot-3 forward scored 8 points in the period, while showing his ability to beat his defender and drive to the basket with regularity.

"I was able to drive by and get what I want," said Hatch. "It was more of how much I practice, so when the time comes, I can perform to the best of my capability."

Junior guard Cam Morel added 16 points with four 3-pointers, while freshman guard Jalen Carter had 7 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds, and senior Grant Keppy finished with 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.

"He defends really well, and he rebounds really well," Beebe said of Keppy. "He does a lot of good things for us."

The Eagles also received a lift from freshman point guard Jacob Baumann (4 points, 4 assists), who was thrust into a starter's role for the undermanned visitors.

"We were down four kids who were out sick," said Beebe. "We have a freshman point guard who starts (Marshawn Cocroft), and a freshman point guard (Baumann) who came in for him. I thought Jacob controlled the game well.

"We always talk about the keys to the game, and one of the biggest keys was next man up. I thought the kids were very resilient tonight. We stepped up and fought through adversity when those runs happened."

Dylan Stone paced the Spartans (11-14, 5-3) with 21 points, including five 3-pointers, while freshman Gavin Mueller added 9 points and 5 rebounds.

"I thought we did a lot of things to try to put ourselves back in the game, but right where it came down to making one or two more shots - we didn't convert on those and they (Eagles) played well," said Spartans coach Erin Dwyer, whose team defeated Aurora Christian, 33-30, on Dec. 9.

"They played with a lot of purpose, and we didn't respond that well. We try to take a lot of pride in not letting their better shooters make those shots, but we lost some people."

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