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Aarais Austin of Warren slaps hands with a young teammate after defeating Peoria Manual. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
PONTIAC, IL—Warren senior Aarias Austin said it himself after the Blue Devils knocked off Peoria Manual 65-40 Friday in the quarterfinals of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament: “Nobody expected us to be good.”
That has all changed now. Warren entered the tournament unseeded, with a 6-5 record. After knocking off the tournament’s No. 2 seed to earn a berth in the semifinals, expectations have been raised.
“It’s huge,” Austin said. “Peoria Manual is a powerhouse basketball team in this state. No one else might have expected us to be good, but we expect it from each other.”
The Blue Devils’ defense wreaked havoc on the Rams from the start, but Manual was able to stay close in the first quarter and even grab a six point lead early in the second quarter.
From that point it was all Warren. Austin scored eight points in the final two minutes of the second half to give Warren a 29-21 lead at the half. The Rams turned the ball over 27 times in the game.
“That’s how we have to play,” Warren coach Ryan Webber said. “We are not playing a zone defense, we are going to stay after it.”
Austin led the way for the Blue Devils (8-5) with 17 points and junior Adrian Deere added 13 and four rebounds.
“I think the competition down here makes you play to a certain level,” Webber said.
Kashmiere Hughes scored 11 for Manual and Anton Ivy and Justin Williams each scored 10.
“I thought we could get some turnovers,” Webber said. “We are trying to be in attack mode. With this being my first year I’m just more concerned with us getting in the habit of that.”
Warren will face the winner of St. Charles North and West Aurora in the semifinals on Saturday.