||More Sports||Sign up||School Finder|
Battle-tested defending Plano Christmas Classic champ and top seed Belvidere acted the part Friday, claiming a 68-53 decision over No. 13 Aurora Christian.
The Bucs started strong, forcing eight first quarter turnovers by the Eagles. Belvidere built an 11-point lead late in the third quarter, withstood an Aurora Christian rally that cut the deficit to four
(56-52), then pulled away down the stretch.
“They’re a confident group,” Belvidere coach Aaron Pearson said of his 9-2 team. “Our five starters all average in double figures.”
One of only two Class 3A teams in the 4A-dominated NIC 10 Conference, Belvidere’s three-senior, two-junior lineup returned intact from last year’s Plano tourney champion and on this night the two juniors -- 6-foot-3 forward Joe Byers and 5-8 point guard Maurice Jackson -- led the way with 21 and 15 points, respectively.
“We wanted to get the tempo up from the outset,” said Pearson. “After that, [Aurora Christian] did a great job of going up against our pressure and got back into the game. I’m proud of the way the kids came back strong in the fourth quarter, though.”
Eagles’ forward Cory Windle drew his third foul with 5:22 left in the second quarter and sat the rest of the half. He returned in the third and scored on a baseline drive with 27 seconds left to cut the Aurora Christian deficit to 46-40.
Windle then capped a 7-3 run midway through the fourth with a driving layup on the break, cutting the lead to 56-52, but the Eagles were outscored 12-1 the rest of the way as the Bucs made eight of nine free throws down the stretch.
“We just didn’t play well,” said Aurora Christian coach Pat McNamara. “Too many turnovers [18 total] and our work on the defensive boards wasn’t too strong, either. We’ve gotten better this tournament but we’ve got to execute better.
Windle finished with 10 points, Ryan Suttle added 12 and Ryan McQuade led the Eagles with 17. McQuade also drew three charging fouls.
“We’ve got 30 drawn charges as a team and he’s got 27 of them,” said McNamara.
“They’re a pretty good defensive team and we gave them some unforced turnovers early. We were fortunate, we could have been down more at half and then we made the big run in the second half.”
Johnathan Harrell added nine points and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds (five on offense), but the Eagles (8-5) were still out-rebounded 33-29.