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West Aurora's Joshua McAuley blocks a shot by Wheaton Warrenville South's Michael Kramer Friday in Aurora. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
He’s the man in the middle for the West Aurora basketball team and in Friday’s win at Naperville Central, Josh McAuley was truly a force to be reckoned with.
The 6-foot-7 senior center drew Redhawks’ 6-9 standout Nick Czarnowski as his defensive assignment and sparked the Blackhawks’ third-quarter rally from a six-point halftime deficit in the eventual 10-point win sparked by four of his five blocked shots and a key steal.
“(Czarnowski) is always a challenge but I look for a challenge,” said McAuley. “I can do more than block shots and rebound. I can be a scorer, too, but I score when I need to score.”
McAuley had the Blackhawks’ first three baskets of the game, two on putbacks and another on a 14-foot jumper. He finished with eight points and seven rebounds to go with the five blocks, despite sitting out four minutes of the fourth quarter after picking up his fourth foul at the 6:15 mark.
Czarnowski finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, seven off the offensive glass.
“(McAuley) is a tremendous shot blocker,” said West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman. “He’s a little deceiving. It’s not that he’s a giant, but he’s long and he’s got very good timing.”
Junior guard Jontrel Walker said it’s reassuring having McAuley playing behind him on defense.
“He blocks every shot. I think he might break the (school) record,” said Walker. “If your man gets by you, you don’t have too much to worry about.”
Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer noticed.
“(McAuley) is a nice player. He’s very active, very athletic, very long,” said the Redhawks coach. “He blocked a few shots where we had layups and then all of a sudden, he came over from the weak side and wiped them away. He’s for sure an improved player.”
McAuley picked up his third foul with 6:46 left in the game, trying to block a shot by Czarnowski, who made one of two free throws. Kerkman left his big man in for the ensuing offensive possession, when Spencer Thomas took a nice feed from Jayquan Lee on a backdoor cut and made a layup. Kerkman had a sub ready for McAuley at the scorer’s table, but he picked up his fourth foul on the ensuing Redhawk possession.
“I was upset with (the call on) the fourth foul,” said Kerkman. “It was on the second shot he blocked in a row and I think the official just thought he must be fouling. I don’t think he did on the one he got called on. He might have got (Czarnowski) on the first one, but the second (block) got called and I thought he got that one clean.”
Walker looks for even more from McAuley.
“He’s a load to stop on the offensive end,” said the third-year varsity guard. “He has pretty good post moves and he can also shoot the jumper. He’s kind of like a 6-7 guard.”
Walker came in averaging just under 22 points and hit a game-high 24 vs. Naperville Central, but Kerkman wouldn’t mind if the numbers dropped a bit.
“Jontrel has got to be more patient,” said the coach. “He’s got to get more people involved. We’ve got some other guys that can shoot the ball. We don’t want to be the team that has to rely on him all the time.”
The Yorkville boys basketball program will be hosting its second annual 5Bs BBZ at the high school foortball field Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. Dinners are $12 each with an option of pork chop, chicken or combination dinner. There is also a $5 hot dog option for kids.
Coach Dan McGuire said the funds will again be used to support the team’s involvement in summer basketball leagues and for a community service project.
Driveups are welcome or email McGuire at firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets in advance.