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Sophomore Josh Pickett steps up to save West Aurora at Pontiac

Pickett has a quick release on his shot and drained two pretty three-pointers to open the fourth quarter. Then he nailed a third. It was a gift off the backboard and clearly deflated the Porters.

West Aurora’s Josh Pickett (4) hits a three over the block attempt by Lockport’s Alex Vassilakis (3).
West Aurora’s Josh Pickett (4) hits a three over the block attempt by Lockport’s Alex Vassilakis (3).
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

PONTIAC, IL–West Aurora’s large early lead had evaporated. Lockport charged back to tie the game after three quarters and the Blackhawks were reeling.

“They were on the run and we had to get something going,” Blackhawks sophomore Josh Pickett said. “I always trust myself in those moments.”

Pickett has a quick release on his shot and drained two pretty three pointers to open the fourth quarter. Then he nailed a third. It was a gift off the backboard and clearly deflated the Porters.

“I don’t know what happened on that one but thankfully I was able to hit [the shots] and we came out with the win,” Pickett said.

West Aurora beat Lockport 46-37 in the opening game of the 90th Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

The prestigious tournament returned after 729 days off. It was canceled last year due to COVID. The last time Pontiac missed a year was in 1946. It was abandoned for five years during World War 2.

“It was great to be the team that started it up again,” Blackhawks coach Brian Johnson said.

West Aurora (8-3) jumped out to a 15-0 lead and Lockport (7-4) spent the next 12 minutes of the game trying to erase the deficit. The Porters finally tied it on a free throw by senior Niko Vassilakis with 4:22 left in the third quarter.

“We were playing really good defense and rebounding and forcing them to miss shots and turn the ball over,” Pickett said. “But obviously they started getting their stuff together.”

West Aurora had 25 turnovers in the game, which allowed the Porters back in. But Lockport shot just 2-for-19 from three-point range.

“We have to find a way to start faster,” Porters coach Brett Hespell said. “But ultimately it comes down to making the shots. We had some open looks in the fourth quarter. So did they and they made them.”

Pickett, who played at St. Rita last year, scored 14 and grabbed five rebounds for the Blackhawks. Senior Ty Rogers led West Aurora with 17 points and six rebounds.

“We came in as the 11th seed and we know we are a much better team,” Rogers said. “It was kind of disrespectful so we took it as our role in the tournament to show people that.”

Senior Julius Smith scored nine for Lockport and Ethan Gallagher added eight points and six rebounds.

West Aurora will face New Trier in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.