AURORA – Bryan Jefferson was a big problem for the St. Charles East boys basketball team. Jared Brownridge was a huge one.
The Waubonsie Valley tandem combined for 57 points Thursday, coming within a point of equaling the entire East team in the Warriors’ 66-58, Upstate Eight Conference crossover victory.
East caps the regular season with a 15-11 record. The Saints open postseason play in a 4A South Elgin Regional semifinal Tuesday against the winner of Monday’s game between the host Storm and St. Charles North.
The Saints approached Thursday’s game as a dress rehearsal for the postseason but the game showed a 1-2 punch like Brownridge and Jefferson can close the curtains on a team in a hurry.
“You can’t really key on one of them because once you start doing that, they’ll just find the other one,” East forward David Mason said. “You just try and contain them. There’s only so much you can do with people like that if you let them get off.”
The Santa Clara-bound Brownridge (35 points, 21 in the second half) dealt the Saints a series of demoralizing blows.
East tied the game, 40-all, when a driving Dom Adduci set up forward A.J. Washington for a layup with 2:15 left in the third quarter. But after a Waubonsie timeout, Brownridge canned 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to put the Warriors back ahead, 46-40.
The Saints later closed in on the Warriors (20-7) in the fourth, drawing within 54-52 on a successful lob from guard Cole Gentry to Washington. But again, Brownridge stomped on East’s momentum, this time with a 10-footer that started a 5-0 Warriors burst.
Adduci led East with 22 points but lost his balance on a drive in the final minute and landed hard on his right shoulder. He left the game and watching the final moments with his shoulder wrapped, but East coach Pat Woods said Adduci should be OK.
“That’s been kind of a thing that’s happened a couple times this year,” Woods said. “He’ll be ready to go come playoff time. He probably wanted to go back in right there.”
The teams were tied, 17-all, after a first quarter in which Adduci went three-for-three from 3-point land, but the Warriors surged to a 35-29 lead by halftime.
Jefferson, a 6-foot-7 senior, snared 11 rebounds to go with his 22 points.
Gentry scored 10 points for the Saints. The sophomore point guard was one of two Saints starters to take a seat to start the second half as East went to the biggest lineup it could realistically field in an attempt to disrupt the Warriors with a rangy, 1-3-1 zone defense. The move paid dividends in the early stages of the half before Waubonsie adjusted.
“It was definitely tough – I went out there, I saw big guys everywhere,” said Brownridge, an undersized but dynamic 2-guard. “It was hard to do at first, but once we got into a timeout, we drew up a play. Bryan drives to the middle, and I cut up to the top of the key, and I had two 3s in a row. And then after that they came with me, so that left Bryan open for the drives, and that worked out for us.”
The game was part of the UEC crossover series to cap the regular season, pitting teams that finished in corresponding spots in the UEC’s River and Valley divisions. East tied for second place with St. Charles North in the River Division behind Larkin, which is the top seed at the South Elgin Regional.