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Coming off an emotional win over Wheaton Academy to clinch a piece of the Suburban Christian Gold title over the weekend, expectations were high for Aurora Christian’s girls basketball team heading into the Class 2A Wilmington Regional.
The Eagles are searching for their first-ever regional championship and entered the game having already established a new program record for wins this season.
The way things started in Wednesday’s semifinal against Reed-Custer, however, it looked like the Eagles were in trouble.
But Aurora Christian wrestled away the lead in the final minute of the first half and never looked back, cruising to a 60-34 win. The win sets up a showdown with Seneca at 7:30 p.m. Thursday for the regional title.
“We’re definitely a second-half team, but we were scrambling at the beginning,” Christian junior Alyssa Andersen said. “I don’t even know [what was happening]. That was not good. I think we just got a feel for it. Obviously, coach lifts us up with the words he tells us. He just kept telling us that we’ve done this before, pick it up.”
Reed-Custer, the fifth seed at the regional, got past the hosts from Wilmington Monday in the quarterfinals and rolled that momentum into the first half Wednesday. The Comets were up 10-5 after a quarter and 16-11 late in the second quarter before the Eagles (18-8) woke up.
A three-pointer from the team’s lone senior, Alex Hultine, gave Aurora Christian an 18-16 lead at the end of the first half. That wound up being part of a 14-0 run that broke the game open. The Eagles scored the final seven points of the first half and the first seven points of the third quarter to take a 25-16 lead.
“I would say we had some jitters,” Christian coach Jerry Tokars said. “They persevered. I think it was important that we got the lead before the half. We’re a second-half team.”
Another 14-0 lead sealed the game for the Eagles. They scored the final bucket of the third quarter and the first 12 points of the fourth quarter, keyed by three straight layups from Natasha Brown, to pull away with a 47-26 lead with 4:23 left.
Andersen led a balanced attack with 11 points for Christian. Hultine added 10 points, while Brown and Kirsten Madsen each scored eight points. Caitlyn Welch led all scorers for Reed-Custer with 15 points.
Now the Eagles look to add another first to this season’s ledger with a regional title Thursday.
“Oh, I’m so pumped,” Andersen said. “I can’t wait. All of us will probably bring our top game tomorrow.”