ROCK ISLAND — West Aurora coach Gordon Kerkman wanted to see how his team would bounce back after a tough afternoon loss to Bogan and up against the hosts at the Rock Island Thanksgiving Classic on Friday.
Kerkman got just what he wanted, with his Blackhawks playing from behind most of the game against Rock Island, the veteran coach watched his team make winning plays down the stretch for a 64-62 win over the Rocks.
“What I liked best is that we really battled back after another lethargic start,” Kerkman said. “We got behind eight point right away and found a way to stay close.”
Key to that, junior guard Marquis Howard came off the bench to score eight of his nine points in the first half and help the Blackhawks forge a 29-all tie at halftime.
“Marquis is one of the bench guys who is not far from being a starter,” Kerkman said.
The Rocks surged back out to a 49-44 lead after three and still led 57-51 with just over three minutes left when West Aurora’s stars took over. Roland Griffin (21 points) hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 57-54 and Jontrel Walker (20 points) hit a driving layup and was fouled to tie it.
“Roland played much better (Friday night) and Jontrel is Jontrel,” Kerkman said.
Those two kept making big plays as the Blackhawks moved the lead to five but the Rocks had one final chance. C.J. Carr’s half-court three came up just short on the front iron as the buzzer sounded.
In Friday’s earlier game, the Blackhawks ran into a buzzsaw agaist Bogan but still found a way to make a game of it.
Behind 25 points from Luwane Pipkins, the Bengals led by as many as 18 midway through the fourth quarter but a Walker triple cut the lead to 61-57 with 1:31 left. That would be the final West Aurora points in a 63-57 Bogan win. Walker had 23 for the Blackhawks.