AURORA – Once again the Aurora Christian boys basketball was cast as the underdog as the third-seeded team took on IC Prep, the top seed in Friday night’s IHSA Class 2A regional championship game on the Eagles’ own court.
Aurora Christian, which got past No. 2 seed St. Edward on Tuesday, could not pull off the second upset of the week and lost to the Knights, 62-57.
The Eagles’ second half comeback fell short despite a 20-point second half effort by sophomore R. D. Lutze and strong defense. Lutze, who drained six 3-point shots in the third and fourth quarters, led all scorers with 25 points.
The Eagles’ flat defense in the first half and the Knights’ deadly accuracy at the free throw line sealed the Eagles’ fate. IC went to the free-throw line 34 times in the game and connected on 28 of the shots. Aurora Christian converted only seven of 14 attempts.
“Our free-throw shooting has been up and down all year,” said IC coach T.J. Tyrrell. “But they stepped tonight and made them.”
IC Catholic (23-6) led at halftime, 36-26, by controlling the boards and getting many second chance shots.
The Eagles (16-12) switched from zone to man-to-man defense, and equalized the rebounding. Johnathan Harrell, who was taken to the hospital as a precaution Tuesday after being hit in the stomach, snared eight rebounds.
“The guys were fighting and scrapping and playing a lot better defense in the second half,” Aurora Christian coach Pat McNamara said. “The big difference in the first half is we stopped them initially but they were killing us on the boards and getting a lot of easy put-backs.”
Lutze also found his 3-point touch. After not making any 3-pointers in the first half, the sophomore connected on three treys in a row during the third quarter to pull the Eagles even with the Knights with 3 minutes left in the third quarter, 39-39.
“I was a little nervous in the first half,” Lutze said. “I just calmed down in the second half.”
Aurora Christian took brief lead, 46-44, on a put-back basket by Juwan Sisco (six points) to start the fourth quarter.
The teams traded the lead throughout the fourth quarter with the Eagles regaining the lead with less than two minutes left in the game on another Lutze 3-pointer, 54-53.
The Knights’ Rhashaun Epting (19 points) responded with a trey on his own to retake the lead for good, 56-54.
Ross Fleming scored 12 points for IC while teammates Anthony Taylor and Clark Brinkman both contributed 7 .
Wes Wolfe scored 11 for the Eagles.