AURORA – The St. Charles East boys basketball played without the area's leading scorer but still produced a superstar performance.
Unfortunately for the Saints, it came in a loss.
After scorching St. Charles North for 90 points on Saturday, East – playing without leading scorer Dom Adduci (mild groin strain) – fell, 82-73, Thursday to Metea Valley in an Upstate Eight Conference crossover game.
Junior point guard Cole Gentry single-handedly kept East in the game during the second half, scoring 17 consecutive points for his team late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. He scored 28 of his game-high 32 points in the second half, including draining all 17 of his free throws.
His dynamite play allowed East to trim a 17-point second half deficit to five points after AJ Washington's put back made it 75-70 Metea with 2:05 to play in the game. A pair of Gentry free throws then made it 78-73 Metea at the 1:11 mark, but the Mustangs steadied themselves in the finsl minute to close out the win.
Gentry said he was disappointed with his play in the first half, but used his shiftiness and slick ball-handling skills to rack up the fouls on Metea as the game wore on.
"The best way to come back from a big deficit is to stop the clock and score," Gentry said. "Making free throws, the clock stops and you have a chance to get closer without the game getting closer to being over, so that's one of the more effective ways, and luckily they were calling fouls. We got in the bonus really early, and I used that to my advantage, too."
Adduci, averaging about 24 points a game, will be out again for the Streamwood game tonight but East coach Pat Woods hopes to have him back for key UEC River games against Larkin and Geneva next week. Woods said Adduci stretched his groin muscle in the North game, and it was decided Wednesday to give him time to heal.
"We just decided we'd rather have him 100 percent next week than 80 percent," Woods said. "In the big scheme of things, obviously you want to win every single game and you don't want to say this game doesn't mean anything, but it's a non-conference game."
East (11-8) saw the game begin to slip away in the final minutes of the second quarter as Metea (11-8) closed the half strong to take a 37-25 lead.
In the third quarter, the Mustangs' Marquell Oliver enjoyed a substantial burst of his own, making his first five field goal attempts of the quarter to help Metea seize command. Oliver led the Mustangs with 24 points.
"We got burned on the same play like three times in a row," Woods said. "That's just a lack of making adjustments on our part, but he got hot, and when a kid gets hot, you've got to try and get him out of his rhythm. We did it, but we didn't do it until he had 18 points."
Washington had 13 points and seven rebounds for East and James McQuillan added 12 points, including a transition basket with 3:05 left in the fourth quarter that marked the first non-Gentry points for the Saints since senior David Mason scored off a Gentry assist with 1:15 left in the third quarter. Mason's inside basket cut East's deficit to 57-43, and the Saints trailed, 59-48, heading into the fourth quarter.
After sinking 16 3-pointers in the North game, East made only four from beyond the arc against the Mustangs as it relied on Gentry's penetration to ignite the offense.
"Cole is a competitor," Woods said. "He tried to do everything he can to try to will us to win."