WESTMONT – The Aurora Christian boys basketball team did not want to go to overtime after giving up a 10-point fourth quarter lead to Immaculate Conception in the IHSA Class 2A Westmont Regional final Friday.
Ryan Suttle made sure that didn’t happen, as he hit a short put-back off a rebound of Cory Windle’s missed 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Eagles a 59-57 win.
The Eagles (19-11), the regional’s third seed, move on to Tuesday’s Byron Sectional semifinal against Winnebago. Immaculate Conception, the top seed, ends its season at 22-6.
“I was just waiting for the play to develop,” Suttle said. “I saw Cory go up for the shot, and I knew if he missed the rebound was going to be back-side. So I put myself in the right position at the right time. It feels great to hit the game-winner. It means a lot to me and my team to be able to still be playing.”
Knights coach T.J. Tyrrell said his team lost track of time in the final couple of seconds.
“We force them into a bad shot, a 3 that was well behind the line,” he said. “That is good they shot that from there. Kids tend to think, ‘They got the shot off, the horn is going to go.’ They tend not to play to the horn. We watched the shot go off, figured ‘He missed, we’re going to overtime.’ We got a little sloppy there, and it cost us.”
Eagles coach Pat McNamara was relieved the game did not go to overtime.
“IC played so well to come back, and they had the momentum at that point,” he said. “They were playing well at the end of the game.”
The teams were tied at 11 after a quarter before Aurora Christian took a 27-23 lead at the half.
The Eagles used a Wes Wolfe four-point play near the end of the third quarter to take a 43-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
However, Immaculate Conception rallied in the fourth, as freshman Rhaushaun Epting nailed three 3-pointers to help his team take a 51-50 lead with 3:45 to play.
Johnathan Harrell answered for Aurora Christian with a basket for a 52-51 lead with a little more than two minutes to play.
A pair of free throws and then another gave the Knights a 54-52 lead with 1:02 to go.
Ryan McQuade made a 3-pointer to give the Eagles a 55-54 lead with 41 seconds left.
Suttle hit two free throws with 21 seconds to play, extending the lead to 57-54, but the Knights’ Demetrius Carr hit a clutch 3-pointer to tie the score at 57 with 14 seconds on the clock.
“We knew IC wasn’t going to give up,” McNamara said. “They hit some long 3s in the fourth. That freshman [Epting] is a great player.
“But we came through in the end. Suttle was great, hitting those two free throws late and then the game-winner. Definitely a big win for the Eagles.”
Suttle led all scorers with 21 and McQuade added 11. Carr led the Knights with 18 and Epting had 15.