West Aurora pushes top-seeded Bolingbrook before falling short

Smothered by three West Aurora defenders and Bolingbrook clinging to a three-point lead late in Friday’s Class 4A Yorkville Regional championship, freshman Davion Thompson was feeling the heat.

The kid sure didn’t look like it.

Thompson escaped, as did the Raiders, holding off a resilient Blackhawks squad, 54-48.

The Raiders (26-4) move on to Tuesday’s Class 4A East Aurora sectional semifinals where they will face Benet.

“He’s a great player, obviously,” Raiders coach Rob Brost said. “He has poise beyond his years.”

After he got a pass out from 3-on-1 pressure, the Raiders turned it into junior JT Pettigrew’s only 3-pointer of the night. Brost then immediately signaled for a timeout and Bolingbrook now up 47-41 with 4:09 left.

“Games like this the crowd is going to be into it with a lot of energy and you can’t hear really,” Thompson said. “But you got to stay composed no matter what. You can’t go too high or too low. That can mess up your game.”

His long baseball pass off a rebound resulted in an easy lay-in by senior Josh Aniceto and a 52-41 advantage with 1:37 left.

“Davion is a generational talent and we all support him,” Raiders senior Jason Lawani said. “We all want him to do the best. He is the core to our team and with him, you know, we are going as far as possible to state.”

Thompson had 13 in the first half and finished with a game-high 18.

“He’s tough to handle and he knows how to score the basketball,” West Aurora coach Mike Fowler said. “I thought we made it tough at times on him. He made some tough shots, especially in the first half. "

Pettigrew hit some big ones, too. He had 14 points and 12 rebounds.

“Anytime you can get your 6-7 point forward out there hitting 3s at crucial times, that’s a good thing,” Brost said. “We’ve learned how to play better together as the season has gone on, and you saw that here tonight with guys stepping up in key moments. Jason Lawani hitting some key layups and JT (Pettigrew) controls the glass for us and hit that enormous 3.”

Lawani had 10 points and seven rebounds.

“This win was really (because of) our coaches and our teammates,” Lawani said. “Everyone had energy on the bench. We all trust each other and love each other and that’s the equation for winning every game.”

A slow start had the Raiders leading just 5-4 after one quarter. They led by as much as eight points in the second quarter before settling for a 26-21 lead at the break.

Bolingbrook senior KJ Cathey scored his only basket of the game with 54 seconds left before half, the result of a highlight-reel pass from Thompson for the easy score.

“We started slow with just five points in the first quarter, but we picked it up,” Thompson said. “I feel like our defense was very good as a team and we started to pull away when they were missing shots and we were coming down scoring.”

As they expected, the Raiders got a handful from the Blackhawks.

“It’s the toughest sectional in the state and it’s not even close,” Brost said. “No disrespect to any other sectional, but the teams in our sectional are just really, really good.”

The Blackhawks had just beat a really good Yorkville team in Wednesday’s semifinal and were looking to do it against the top seed.

“We battled,” Fowler said. “I thought we gave them (a tough game), especially because we knew they were a good basketball team, coached well and have players who can produce inside and outside, and they’re quick.”

Calvin Savage scored 13 points, fellow senior Jordan Brooks led the Blackhawks with 14 points and junior Terrence Smith had eight points.

“We just had some opportunities on offense there that we let go,” Fowler said. “We had some turnovers, some missed shots and they took advantage and made some extra plays. But with the way we came out tonight, I’m proud of my boys on how they approached this game and left it all out.

“I tell them all the time I can live with wins and losses as long as we play Blackhawk basketball. We played the right way tonight. You got to live with it. It’s tough. It’s your last one, but the way we went out there, we competed. People were making plays. We left it all out there tonight.”

In just his first season coaching at the school where he won a state title as a player 24 years ago, Fowler hopes the Blackhawks program is just getting started under his lead.

“With it being my first year here it’s a stepping stone for our program, especially for the lower levels coming up,” he said. “This is how we have to approach games and how we play every single night. Hopefully, the young ones watching tonight could see that tonight and the expectations for juniors, sophomores and freshmen.”

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