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By Drake Skleba
For the Enterprise 

Down 19 in fourth quarter Hilltoppers rally past Wheaton Academy on Buss' steal and score

Shoe-less Wildcats 15-0 run buries Metea Valley; Too many Trojan turnovers, too much, in loss to Neuqua Valley

 

Last updated 12/24/2019 at 1:06pm



On Monday afternoon, the 54th East Aurora Boys Holiday Tournament tipped off in Aurora and Joliet Catholic Academy, Plainfield Central and Downers Grove North were all in action.

In the game of the day, trailing 57-38 with 7:30 remaining and 66-56 with 2:42 remaining on the huge overhead East Aurora scoreboard things looked bleak for Joliet Catholic Academy

"They will never give up" JCA coach Joe Gura said of his team.

With a 34-point fourth quarter - they did not give up.

In one of the most amazing victories in the long history of Joliet Catholic basketball, the Hilltoppers rallied past Wheaton Academy 72-71.

In the 2018 East Aurora Boys Holiday Tournament, Plainfield Central coach Gregg Bayer's Wildcats fell to Neuqua Valley 53-48. Using a 15-0 run at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth Plainfield Central rolled past Metea Valley 61-50.

Twenty three turnovers were the difference in Downers Grove North's 55-43 loss to Neuqua Valley.

Joliet Catholic Academy 72 Wheaton Academy 71

Trailing 71-67 with 16 seconds left the Hilltoppers passed the ball inside to 6-foot-3 freshman Conor Sukel.

Sukel (16 points, eight rebounds) picked up his eighth and ninth points of the fourth quarter and was fouled.

Sukel nailed the free throw for his second old-fashioned three point play on the day to pull JCA (4-5) within 71-70.

On the day, 6-2 Hilltopper junior Drew Buss (five points, three rebounds) had buried a long-range three pointer early in the fourth quarter.

Buss saved his best for last.

Forcing the 11th Wheaton Academy turnover of the fourth quarter and the 22nd of the game, Hilltopper senior Christian Young tipped the inbound pass to Buss, who drove to the hoop and scored with 2.3 seconds left.

Hilltoppers 72. Warriors 71.

"The inbounds pass was tipped by Christian and I grabbed the ball and went right up and laid it in." Buss said. "It felt good."

"My shots weren't falling but my teammates had my back," Young said. "I was able to tip the in-bounds pass and it sure felt great to see Drew come up with the ball and score the winning basket."

Wheaton Academy's Marcus Bolt's (21 points, four 3's) desperation three, hit the front rim and bounced away and coach Gura could breath again.

Merry Christmas Coach Gura from your 2019-20 Joliet Catholic Academy boys varsity basketball team.

"I've been doing this for 48 years and this was one of my greatest come-from behind victories," Gura said. "I am so proud of all our kids. I told you before the game, they never give up. They just keep playing hard and we have been rewarded today with this great win.

"The kids have given me a great Christmas present. It sure beats a Christmas tie."

Down by 19 with 7:30 left, Buss along with Ante Acosta (18 points, three 3's) and Young, who scored all five of his points in the fourth quarter the Hillltpopers went on a 16-2 run that pulled JCA within 59-54 with 4:11 left.

Over the next two minutes, the Warriors went on a 7-2 run and extend their lead to 66-56.

The never-say-die Hilltoppers, would not quit.

Acosta buried his third three of the game to bring the Hill back to within 66-59. Sukel converted his first old-fashioned three-point play; 66-62 Hill within four 1:43 left.

"It was a great team win for us," Acosta said. "We were all hitting our shots at the end, to come-from-behind and win."

"I played hard through the adversity," Sukel said. "I played to my strengths and we all played well to get the victory."

With 1:13 left, Hilltopper standout wide receiver from the football Hilltoppers, John Ersham buried a long three-pointer and JCA was down 67-65. With 50 seconds left, Ersham scored again to pull the Hilltoppers within 69-67.

"Christian was handling the ball in the fourth quarter for us," Ersham said. "Chris got us wide open looks for three's and we knocked them down."

Bolt scored 19 of his game-high 21 points in leading the Warriors to a 39-23 at halftime. The Warriors extended their lead to 55-38 after three quarters and scored the first basket of the third quarter for their largest lead of the game 57-38.

Hilltopper senior Jake Bumstead and junior Hilltopper football back,Ja'Are Mack each hit a pair from beyond the arc. Junior Trevor Phelan chipped in with three points.

Plainfield Central 61 Metea Valley 50

Playing their sixth game, without their standout, 6-foot-2 guard, Brandon Shoemaker, the Wildcats (8-3) took on Metea Valley, in the first East Aurora Holiday Tournament game.

Led by seniors, Jakari Johnson (17 points, eight rebounds, three steals) and Mekhi Lunford, the 'Cats jumped out to a 32-20 lead at halftime.

Leading 20-16 after one quarter, Johnson scored the first nine Wildcat points of the second quarter and conclude the half with 11.

Wildcat turnovers and the long-range shooting of Metea Valley reserve Will Hopkins (14 points, four 3's) pulled the Mustangs within 39-36 with 2:45, in the third quarter. Hopkins long-range shooting display appeared to have been the energy drink for the somewhat lethargic 'Cats.

Led by Lunford, Javari and twin-bro Tavari Johnson (seven points, nine rebounds, four assists), the Cats' scored the final eight points of the third quarter. The 'Cats scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter. A 15-0 run to run the 54-36 'Cats. Game over.

Scoring 12 of his game-high 19 points Lunford in one of his best offensive outputs for Plainfield Central, just missed a double-double, scoring 19 points and nine rebounds. Lunford also rejected three Mustang shots and added three steals.

"This was a great win for us after we had suffered through a two-game skid," Lunford said. "Everyone kind of doubted us without Brandon but we are confident going forward."

Six-foot-4 Wildcat senior center Joseph Odozie added eight points with five rebounds and two steals. Junior Kameron Flowers scored seven points and hauled down five rebounds even after a nasty fall on the court.

Malik Lunford, would chip in with four points, for the 'Cats

"We knew what we had to do and stayed with it," Javari Johnson said. "Our game plan eventually led to our big 15-0 run, that won the game for us. We really miss Brandon and can't wait until he returns."

"We responded to their run with a run of our own to come away with this victory," Bayer said. "I believe Metea Valley (3-8) is a much better team than their record indicates. Mekhi was outstanding today for us. The last two games he has really been aggressive going to the basket.

"Javari is a Warrior and has been through it all in his three years at Central. He is our leader and played well again tonight."

Nequa Valley 55 Downers Grove North 43

Twenty three Trojan turnovers.

In Downers Grove North's East Aurora Holiday Tournament opener, the Trojans did not take very good care of the basketball.

Neuqua Valley led by their 6-foot-4 senior Connor Davis (24 points) forced 23 Trojan turnovers which would lead to their victory.

Neuqua Valley (7-4) jumped out to a 19-9 first quarter lead and behind seven Davis points.

Trailing 25-16 in the last minute of the first half, 6-foot-6, Trojan junior Jack Mielke buried consecutive three-point bombs to bring the Trojans within 25-22 at the break. Mielke scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half.

With 4:59 left in the third quarter Mielke would bury his fifth three of the game and DGN trailed 27-25. Three consecutive Trojan turnovers ignited an 11-0 Wildcat run and this game was over.

Six-foot-6 Kyle Engstler scored all nine of his Trojan points in the second half. Six-foot-6 Kevin Bozeman tallied seven points for the Trojans, while junior Nate Demos chipped in with a pair of three-pointers for six points.

"We just can't turn the ball over and expect to win games," Mielke said. "I was very aggressive in the first half to keep us in the game. In the second half, I wasn't as aggressive as I should be. I'm have played well for us in our first ten games by being aggressive with the ball."

"Wow - 23 turnovers," Downers Grove North (6-4) coach Jim Thomas said. "Twenty three offensive possessions thrown away. We can't make mistakes like that against a talented well-coached team like Neuqua Valley. Jack Mielke has had an outstanding start to the season.

"We have only two seniors on our roster. As young as we are I am very happy with the way we have played in our first ten games. In three of our four losses we had too many turnovers."

 

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