West Aurora was staring at a 10-point deficit in the third quarter Friday night against host Lake Park, but the Blackhawks never blinked.
The Blackhawks turned up the pressure defensively and star guard Jontrell Walker tallied 10 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter to lift West Aurora to a 60-53 victory in DuPage Valley Conference action in Roselle.
Lake Park (13-9, 5-4) led 43-33 after Marcus McDaniel made two free throws with 2:55 left in the third quarter, but Walker wasn’t too concerned.
“I don’t think we’ve been down that many but we’ve been in a losing position before, so from that point on we just knew to keep our confidence up and keep the momentum going our way,” Walker said. “As a team we just knew they would come out ready to play and we came out kind of slow. But we picked it up as the game went on and as their lead grew we just understood that there was more time to keep playing, so we just had to keep playing West Aurora basketball.”
West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman didn’t share Walker’s optimism.
“He was speaking for himself, I think,” Kerkman said. “I didn’t know if we were going to get anything back. We didn’t have any life to us. I didn’t particularly think we were taking good shots.”
But junior Tommy Koth, who sat out most of the first half with foul trouble, took a good shot when he received a pass from forward Roland Griffin and buried an open three-pointer.
That triggered a 14-0 run that gave the Blackhawks (13-3, 7-0) a 47-43 lead following Griffin’s putback at the 5:31 mark of the fourth quarter.
The run was fueled by West Aurora’s three-quarter court press, which forced five Lake Park turnovers in that span, two of which came on steals by Walker, whose driving layup tied the score at 43-43.
After a Lake Park miss, Myles Wisley sank a pair of free throws to give the visitors the lead for good and Walker followed with a steal and layup.
“I think that press got us going and got our defense a lot more active,” Walker said. “And as our defense picked up so did our offense.”
Kerkman wished his squad had shown that intensity earlier in the game.
“We started putting more pressure on in the third quarter, but prior to that time we were sort of laying back and letting them run us wherever they wanted us to and it caused us a lot of problems,” Kerkman said. “We did force a few turnovers and I think as a result they started playing a little shakier. I won’t say their shot selection wasn’t as good, but they didn’t look as comfortable on their shots as what they did the first half.”
The Lancers were still within three points after Cameron Van Aswegen’s three-pointer made it 53-50 with 2:44 to go, but the hosts missed a potential game-tying trey on the next possession and Walker and Matthew Dunn combined to make six free throws in the final 1:13 for West Aurora.
Griffin had 13 points and nine rebounds and Koth added six points and seven boards for the Blackhawks, who shot 50 percent from the floor and made 16- of-19 free throws.
McDaniel led Lake Park with 11 points, with Van Aswegen, Michael Karas and Sean Moore all tallying nine points.