WHEATON – It wasn’t pretty, but the Aurora Central Catholic boys basketball team will take it.
In a game plagued by starts and stops, fouls and sometimes plain, ugly basketball, the Chargers leaned on defense to pull out a gritty, 50-43 Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division win Thursday over host St. Francis.
ACC’s 2-3 zone defense gave St. Francis fits, especially from behind the arc where the Spartans are usually deadly.
St. Francis only managed a pair of 3-pointers – none from sharpshooter Andrew Kimball.
“They play so hard and such good defense that it’s never pretty when we play them,” ACC coach Nate Drye said. “They really get into to you and make it difficult to score. There are really no easy baskets with them, it’s always a grind. I thought we did a nice job not giving up easy baskets.”
ACC’s defense was stout in the first quarter, limiting St. Francis to only a pair of field goals as the Chargers raced out to a 13-5 first quarter lead. It took the Spartans nearly four minutes to score before Jason Pisarski finally put St. Francis on the board with 4:12 to go.
At that point, the tone for the game had been set with ACC dictating the style on both ends of the floor.
“For whatever reason, we did not come out and play well in the beginning and were playing catch-up,” St. Francis coach Bob Ward said. “We finally did catch up but they did what they do and they do it well. More power to them. They see us play enough that the zone came out and gave us trouble.”
Despite its shooting woes, St. Francis (17-5, 5-4) clawed its way back into the game, pulling even early in the third quarter. Pisarski had a three-point play on the first possession of the third quarter before Matt Bonner tied the game at 24 with a short jumper.
The rest of the contest was nip-and-tuck with neither team having much success offensively.
With the score tied at 34 going into the fourth quarter, the Chargers (13-9, 5-4) held St. Francis to just nine fourth quarter points. The Spartans were held without a field goal for nearly five minutes as ACC slowly pulled ahead.
The Chargers took their biggest lead of the fourth quarter on a pass from Anthony Andujar to Shawn Soris that made it 43-39 with 1:19 to go.
Zach Flint was perfect from the free throw line in the last minute of the game to help seal the win as Kimball misfired on a pair of 3s. The Chargers defense held the dangerous Kimball scoreless.
“It was a pretty good win – we got beat by them last time at the very end so it was nice getting this one today,” ACC forward Phil Schuetz said. “If we keep moving on defense and stay out and guard, we can get better looks on their shooters.”
Schuetz was a tough matchup for St. Francis, as the steady senior had a game-high 17 points, many of which came from easy looks at the basket.
“We try to go inside more and everyone was making good passes,” Schuetz said. “In the second half my teammates were all getting easy passes to me for easy buckets.”
The teams could have a chance to see each other again in the IHSA Class 3A IMSA Regional.
“We’ll obviously look at tape but this is what makes it such an interesting regional – you have teams that you play during the course of the year but that you also play in March,” Ward said. “All of those teams are in the mix.”
Pisarski led St. Francis with 13 points while Tim Zettinger added 11.