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East Aurora felt like it got better over the course of its four-day run in the 47th East Aurora Holiday Tournament, but finishing games is still a work in progress.
After taking Pleasure Ridge Prep (Ky.) to overtime and losing by three Friday night, the Tomcats found themselves in a tight game again Saturday against Geneva in the tourney’s fifth-place contest. The result was the same, a 57-54 defeat, sending East to a 1-3 record for the week.
Geneva finished the tournament 2-2 overall and improved to 13-3 on the season. The Vikings put three players in double figures, with Navigato leading the way with 22 points. Connor Chapman added 16 and Mike Trimble 10 as the Vikings began using their height in the second half by pounding the ball inside.
The Vikings shot 53 percent over the final two quarters, and just one of their seven shots in the fourth period came from outside the paint.
“We felt like we had that advantage and we exploited that,” said Chapman, who also grabbed eight boards. “The last couple of games teams went zone so we tried to send it inside.”
Like Friday, East Aurora (3-12) had the lead down the stretch, and took a 54-53 advantage on a Tyree Willis three-pointer with 1:13 to go. But Connor Chapman followed with a bucket inside for Geneva with 34.8 seconds to go to put the Vikings on top 55-54, then added two free throws with 11.4 seconds to account for the final scoring.
East Aurora, meanwhile, missed three open shots in the final minute, and Willis’ trey from the deep corner with 4.2 seconds left was long. They had one last chance when the ball was poked away from Nate Navigato and into the hands of DeJon Talbert, but his game-tying attempt at the buzzer rattled in and out.
“Unfortunately our [1-3] record didn’t show it, but we improved,” said East Aurora coach Wendell Jeffries. “We have to learn how to close out ballgames.”
Willis, who went scoreless in Friday’s game, hit six treys and finished with a game-high 25 points while Talbert, who entered play Saturday leading the tournament averaging 23.3 points, missed all six of his field goal attempts and went scoreless against the Vikings’ box-and-one defense.
Fred Reynolds scored 12 points for the Tomcats and Jonathon Villezcas added eight.
“They did a defense to take him (Talbert) away, but we showed we could have other people step up,” Jeffries said. “Instead of us trying to force-feed DeJon, we had other guys step up.”
Belvidere North 48, Aurora Central 46
The Chargers (6-7) had to settle for eighth place as Todd Berkenpas canned a short jumper with 27.5 seconds left to give Belvidere North (4-8) its first win of the tournament.
Aurora Central led by as many as 11 points, 22-11, after an Anthony Andujar bucket with 3:58 to go before halftime capped a 15-2 run for the Chargers. North responded by scoring the last nine points of the quarter to make it a 22-20 game at the break.
Neither team led by more than four in a back and forth second half, with the Thunder moving ahead 46-43 on two free throws from Berkenpas (game-high 18 points) with 1:42 left. Sean Harreld then drained a long 3-pointer with 1:25 to go to forge the last tie of the night.
Harreld, who led Aurora Central with 12 points, just missed a 25-footer from the left wing as time expired that would have tied the game and forced overtime. Phil Schuetz scored 10 points and grabbed seven boards for the Chargers while Andujar tossed in nine.