Justin Hardy was not about to fail.
The St. Charles East senior forward had played like a man possessed after a slow start in the Saints' Upstate Eight Conference crossover boys basketball game against highly regarded West Aurora Friday night.
Taking a feed from Zach Robinson in St. Charles, Hardy made a quick darting move to finish the collaboration with a simple lay-in with a minute, 12 seconds remaining to reverse a one-point West Aurora lead.
Despite several notable moments over the last 70-plus seconds, neither team would score again as the Saints held on for a 52-51 victory.
Hardy personally matched the Blackhawks' eight-point fourth quarter in collecting a game-high 26 points.
The 6-foot-5 forward had three 3-pointers, including back-to-back triples in the third quarter, and a 3-point play to spearhead the Saints' offensive attack.
"I didn't want to take bad shots," Hardy said. "I wanted to put us in position to win. We were starting to slow down in the third quarter. They were making a run on us. We swung the ball around, and it happened to come up in my hands with some good looks."
The consecutive Hardy 3-pointers sabotaged the Blackhawks' largest lead of the game at 40-36 into a two-point St. Charles East lead.
The fateful fourth quarter was a tactical affair, but Hardy ended up scoring the final four points of the game after West Aurora senior Ben Young [14 points] hit the last of his 3-pointers to give the Blackhawks a 51-48 lead.
Hardy also collected eight rebounds while largely directing the Saints' offense from the top of the key or the baseline.
Robinson augmented Hardy with 12 points.
"He hit some huge shots for us," Hardy said of his senior teammate. "
The seniors' combined payload was necessary as Nate Ortiz and Cody Mitchell tied for the Saints' third-leading man with four points each.
But Hardy was a one-man operation at times against the Blackhawks (8-2).
"[Hardy] is a big-time player," West Aurora coach Brian Johnson said. "That's what big-time players do."
"That was coach's [Pat Woods] call," Robinson said of the game-winning connection with Hardy. "It's a good play. We use it a lot."
West Aurora was without its leading scorer, Camron Donatlan [21 points per game], away on a family vacation.
"We took that to our advantage," Hardy said. "Just because [Donatla] wasn't there, we shouldn't minimize this win for us."
Damian Virgen led West Aurora with 16 points.
In the girls game Ashley DiOrio's two free throws with 20.9 seconds left gave St. Charles East (5-7) a 44-43 win over West Aurora (8-3). DiOrio scored 10 points and UAB recruit Sara Rosenfeldt scored 20 for the Saints.