AURORA – For a while, it didn’t look as if anyone would step up for the Aurora Christian girls basketball team Friday night.
Then the fourth quarter started.
Sparked by a personal 5-0 run from freshman Kirsten Madsen, scoring became contagious for the Eagles as they overcame a rough start to defeat visiting Wheaton Academy 48-41 to clinch the first outright Suburban Christian Conference Gold championship in program history.
“This [championship] means that our girls have been working their butts off,” Aurora Christian coach Jerry Tokars said, “and they’re starting to understand the value of doing that and what they’re capable of doing.”
With the score tied at 28 at the end of third quarter, Aurora Christian (17-8, 7-3 SCC Gold) immediately turned the momentum when Madsen connected for a long 3-pointer from the left wing.
She then stole the inbounds pass and scored a layup, which put the hosts ahead, 33-28, prompting a Wheaton Academy timeout.
“We kept our focus,” Tokars said. “We said in the locker room that they’re going to come out and give us their best, but we had so many people step up and nobody was afraid to take shots.”
Especially Madsen, who finished with seven points, all coming in the second half.
“This means a lot,” Madsen said. “We’re so excited to make team history and we do this all for God. We played as a team and pulled out a great win.”
Aurora Christian scored nine straight points to start the fourth quarter, but Wheaton Academy (6-17, 2-5) didn’t go down without a fight.
The Warriors twice trimmed the deficit to two points in the final 2:38, but Aurora Christian held off the rally by converting a pair of free throws and getting a basket from junior Alyssa Andersen.
“The coaches kept us pumped up and in the game and that helped us play together,” Madsen said. “We played hard until the end.”
Wheaton Academy’s box-and-1 defense in the early going bewildered the Eagles and forced them into poor shots, allowing the Warriors to pull out to a 6-2 lead and later an 11-4 advantage at the end of the first period after a Charissa Robinson basket.
Aurora Christian made a quick adjustment at the start of the second quarter, though, and pieced together a 7-0 run highlighted by a 3-pointer and short jumper from senior Alex Hultine to tie the game at 11.
Both teams then traded baskets down in the final 4:16 and found themselves deadlocked at 18 going into halftime.
“Everybody that got in there did a great job,” Tokars said. “We’ve been preaching team all year long and we really showed that tonight.”
Andersen finished with a team-high 16 points for Aurora Christian while Hultine added 15.
Sophomore Natasha Brown grabbed 22 rebounds.
Robinson led Wheaton Academy with 15 points.
“We battled and I thought we played a good game, and it was even at the end of three quarters,” Warriors coach Beth Mitchell said. “But we just had some mental breakdowns down the stretch and that ultimately hurt us.”