With its first ever state appearance hanging in the balance, Bolingbrook lived on the high wire. “All year long this has been a team of trust,” guard Brodric Thomas said.
Center Julian Torres registered a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and the No. 8 Raiders withstood a furious rally by No. 9 West Aurora to pull out the 50-49 Class 4A Hinsdale Central Supersectional victory Tuesday night.
The Raiders (24-6) are now 18-1 in their last 19 games and punched their first ever ticket to the state semifinals. Bolingbrook survived two potential game-winning West Aurora shots in the final seconds.
Bolingbrook advances to meet No. 2 Stevenson in the first Class 4A state semifinal Friday at Carver Arena.
Star Bolingbrook guard Prentiss Nixon added 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. His two driving layups accounted for the only two Raiders’ baskets in the fourth quarter. Thomas registered an impressive line of seven points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.
Torres split two free throws with 2:44 remaining that put the Raiders up 50-47. West Aurora guard Reggie Jordan (12 points) scored on a putback off a Bolingbrook turnover with just over two minutes to play that completed the scoring.
The final moments lacked scoring but not drama or incident. West Aurora (23-9) forced another turnover on the ensuing Bolingbrook possession. After West Aurora worked the clock down, Bolingbrook forward Dimitri Akenten (four points, eight rebounds) partially blocked a Tommy Kloth jumper that Torres collected with 6.8 seconds remaining.
Fouled with 3.9 seconds to play, Bolingbrook missed the one-and-one. Jordan’s final shot just inside halfcourt hit off the backboard. “I thought it was going in,” Jordan said.
Bolingbrook survived despite the six-minute scoring drought as West Aurora nearly overcame a 13-point deficit. “I’m so proud of these boys, proud of our student body, but most of all, I’m very proud to coach this team,” Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost said.
“When we were 6-5, we could have easily folded but we trusted them, and I’m proud to be a part of this.”
The significant story was the absence of West Aurora 6-6 star Roland Griffin, who was not dressed following an incident at school earlier in the day. West Aurora also played without 6-2 football star Drake Spears, the team’s sixth man who suffered a broken ankle in practice.
“[West Aurora] Gordie Kerkman is one of the best coaches in the country,” Brost said. “I knew his kids were going to be ready to play no matter who was wearing their jerseys.”
West Aurora guard Marquis Howard drilled four 3-pointers in scoring a team-best 16 points. His 3-pointer from the right wing produced the game’s only tie of the second half at 45-apiece with just over five and a half minutes remaining.
The shot punctuated a 13-0 Blackhawk run that nullified Bolingbrook’s own 11-0 burst that gave the Raiders a seemingly commanding 45-32 lead with 3:41 remaining in the third quarter. Without Griffin, West Aurora had no player taller than the 6-3 Kloth (eight points, six rebounds). Torres scored six straight points during the run, and Thomas put the closing touches with a 3-pointer of his own.
“We weren’t big enough, and they just killed us on the boards,” Kerkman said.
West Aurora hit eight 3-pointers to stay within 30-27 at the break. The Blackhawks did not attempt a free throw. Bolingbrook converted 10 of 13 as Torres shot five of seven from the floor and seven of eight at the free throw line.
“We’re making school history,” Thomas said.