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Aurora Christian teammates mob game hero Ryan Suttle (middle). | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT: firstname.lastname@example.org
With the score tied at 57-57 with 6.4 seconds left in Friday’s Class 2A Westmont Regional title game against top-seeded Immaculate Conception, a play was drawn up for Aurora Christian senior point guard Ryan Suttle.
Suttle wound up with the ball, but not in the way the Eagles intended.
IC’s defense forced the Eagles to switch things up. Senior Cory Windle firing a deep three-pointer from the wing. But Suttle put himself in position in the lane for the long rebound, the ball caromed right to him and while still in mid-air, Suttle put it in at the buzzer to give Christian a dramatic 59-57 win and a regional crown.
“They stopped us from inbounding it to [junior Johnathan Harrell] in the corner,” Suttle said. “I saw Cory going up for the shot and I knew if he missed it, it would be back side and it would be a long rebound. I put myself in the right position and I was there at the right time.”
Christian heads to the Byron Sectional Tuesday to face unbeaten Winnebago, a team that beat Christian in Aurora in January.
Suttle’s heroics capped off a wild fourth quarter. Christian (19-11) took a 46-35 lead early in the fourth on a Paxton Singer free throw. But IC (22-6) got back into the game behind the hot shooting of freshman Rhaushaun Epting. Epting drilled three three-pointers and both Anthony Taylor and Demetrius Carr converted three-point plays as part of a 16-4 run to give the Knights a 51-50 lead with 3:45 left.
“The freshman surprised us, he was tough,” Christian coach Pat McNamara said.
A Carr free throw with 1:02 left gave IC a 54-52 lead. Then during a timeout, assistant coach Dan Beebe called on senior Ryan McQuade to give the Eagles the lead. Still coming off the bench in the wake of a knee injury in January, McQuade drilled a three-pointer with 46 seconds left to give put the Eagles ahead 55-54.
“It’s a two-option play and he was the shooter and he hit it, all net,” McNamara said.
Taylor then missed two free throws for the Knights and Suttle calmly hit two from the line to push the lead to 57-54. IC wasn’t done, however. Carr put down a deep three-pointer from the wing to tie the game 57-57 with 15 seconds left. But Suttle made it all moot with his hustle play at the buzzer.
“That was a deep three to tie it,” McNamara said. “It was nice to see our guys keep their composure. It’s nice to have seniors.”
IC was led by Carr, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the loss. Epting scored 15 points and Clark Brinkman added 10. After starting 0-for-13 from three-point range as a team, the Knights hit 7-of-14 down the stretch.
Suttle scored a game-high 21 points with the Knights defense focused on Harrell (nine points). McQuade added 11 points.