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Vin Patel of Metea Valley starts to pass as Tyree Willis (44) of East Aurora moves in to defend. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
During the regular season, Metea Valley’s boys basketball team dominated East Aurora in Upstate Eight Valley play, beating the Tomcats by 38 and 18 points in their two meetings.
The Mustangs met the Tomcats once again in Monday’s Class 4A Oswego East Regional quarterfinals, and Metea coach Bob Vozza stressed to his team that the playoffs are a different season than the regular season.
The Mustangs learned that lesson first-hand Monday.
The 22nd-seeded Tomcats gave Metea all it could handle, holding the lead late in the fourth quarter, before Metea rallied for a 57-53 to survive and advance to Tuesday’s semifinal against sixth-seeded rival Waubonsie Valley.
“Coach always says that come regionals, anything can happen,” Metea senior reserve guard Connor Archey said. “We just had to get to the next day, get a W.”
Archey was a big key to getting that done. The 11th-seeded Mustangs (19-9) had foul trouble sideline starters Sean Davis and Trayvond Taylor for much of the first half and it never seemed like they could get into a flow. The game was tied at 38-38 going into the fourth quarter when Archey came to the rescue.
He scored all 10 of his points in the final quarter to help bail out the Mustangs when they needed him most.
“Connor hit some big shots late,” Metea coach Bob Vozza said. “He hits those in practice all the time. When he hits the first, he gets some confidence. He saved us tonight.”
Metea took a 48-41 lead with 5:52 left on a jumper from Archey and a three-point place from Davis. But East Aurora (4-23) would not quit. A three-point play from Larry Reynolds, a three-pointer from Johnathan Villezcas and a rebound put-back from DeJon Talbert suddenly gave the Tomcats a 49-48 lead with 3:50 left.
“They played inspired,” East Aurora coach Wendell Jeffries said. “They played as a team. That’s the type of attitude that you need all year. We were just telling them, if you play that hard and play together like that, you can win some games. That was a very good basketball team that we took down to the wire.”
Metea took the lead for good on a lay-up from Vin Patel, followed by a jumper and two free throws from Archey. East cut it to 54-53 with 17 seconds left on a rebound put-back from Reynolds. Nick Dodson stole an inbounds pass with two seconds left and hit the ensuing free throws to ensure the win for Metea.
“Playoff time, anything can happen,” Vozza said. “You have to give a lot of credit to East Aurora. They spread us out a little bit. It’s hard to keep that level (of beating the team during the regular season). Anything can happen in the playoffs. They kept going at it.”
Archey and Davis each scored 10 points to lead a balanced Metea attack. Villezcas led all scorers with 15 points for East Aurora. Reynolds scored 14 points and Talbert added 10.
Now Metea has a quick turnaround to face another familiar conference foe, Waubonsie Valley, in Tuesday’s semifinals.
“When you have games like that, you have to find a way to get through them,” Vozza said. “We told them that we have to start thinking about Waubonsie. We don’t have a lot of time to prepare. It will be a fun game.”