The Aurora Christian girls basketball team made program history Thursday night, winning its first regional championship with a comeback win against Seneca. The Eagles move on to Monday’s 2A Somonauk Sectional semifinal against Peru St. Bede. In his third year with the program, Eagles coach Jerry Tokars is proud of the strides made by his team, which also won its first Suburban Christian Conference Gold title and has set a single-season wins record (19 and counting). Before Friday afternoon’s practice, Tokars chatted with Kane County Chronicle sports editor Jay Schwab about the exciting times for Aurora Christian. The following is an edited transcript:
Not [teaching] in the building, do you have any sense of what kind of feedback/response there’s been about the win?
If I judge by emails and stuff coming, I haven’t been [to school] yet, but I know with Facebook and emails to my own personal email, it looks like there’s quite a bit of excitement. … It took quite awhile for us to leave Wilmington High School last night. A lot of people were celebrating pretty good, and rightly so.
What does it say about this group that they were able to accomplish this with just one senior?
Well, they’re pretty resilient. … We’ve had some comeback wins. We had some last year, so I would even think it started last year, although the freshmen weren’t around last year, but a lot of the returners from last year’s core did some of this. … I think probably one of the differences from the last couple years, I’ve seen a progression from the first year in the program, is with finishing games.
Do you think you guys are a better offensive team or a better defensive team?
Well, I would say a defensive team. We’re still striving to get better offensively but defense has been one of the top three stress points I’ve been emphasizing since the first day I got to the program, and it will always be. It’s proven for us across all three years because when you are having an off night or can’t score like what happened in the fourth quarter [on Thursday], good defense kept us in the game until we recalibrated enough to put more points on the board.
You guys started out with eight girls. How much of a challenge has [depth] been?
We called up [several players] after the Thanksgiving tournaments, late November, early December. It turned out that many of them transitioned [successfully]. … Everyone from someone like Kirsten Madsen, who’s started the last several games, to several others who, whether because of foul trouble to starters or certain situations, have gotten in and contributed.
What’s the early outlook for Monday?
St. Bede is a tough team. They have a big center, I think she’s 6-2, 6-3, and she’s a good size kid. She’s a [dominant] center in the middle on offense and defense, and I think she’s their leading scorer, but they have some other shooters, too, which kind of challenges you to defend inside and outside at the same time. We’re going to have to come up with a pretty good gameplan to stay with them, and give them a game. … We’re looking forward to the challenge, we really are. It should be fun and a great experience for a team that is only losing one player.
Is it a challenge to make sure they don’t have that satisfied mindset considering the program has never done this before?
It’s a logical question, and it very well could, but knowing this group, that’s been one of our major characteristics. Many, if not all of them, play multiple sports, and they’re never satisfied, which I think is a great asset. We’ve got practice a little later this afternoon, and I guarantee they’re going to be ready to go at it and prepare for Monday. I don’t think it’s going to be a big problem. Nerves may be, but if you’re not a little nervous, something may be wrong.