We've got ourselves an all-Aurora final Friday night at the East Aurora Class 4A Sectional. The headline on Rick Armstrong's column on the front page of the Friday Beacon-News sports section reads, "New school vs. old school," because that's literally the matchup we have.
In one corner, we have "new school" No. 3 seed Metea Valley. This is a high school so new it hasn't even hosted a graduation ceremony yet. The Mustangs (25-4) are playing for a sectional title in just their second season of varsity basketball. As you might expect, the stage is completely new for those involved in the Metea community. Without a doubt, this will be the first time they've played a basketball game that all of Aurora is talking about.
In the other corner, you've got "old school" No. 4 seed West Aurora. The Blackhawks (24-5), of course, represent one the most storied programs in the state and are guided by the legendary Gordie Kerkman -- a coach with 734 career wins, 24 regional championships, 10 sectional championships, eight state appearances and five state trophies, including the 2000 Class AA title. This stage is old hat to Kerkman, but this is the deepest tournament advancement for West since 2006. It's a whole new deal for the current crop of Blackhawk players, so in that sense they are on even ground with the upstart Mustangs.
Looking at Friday's game, we'll see how quickly West Aurora recovers from a physical victory over Plainfield East in Tuesday's sectional semifinal. Starting guard Jayquan Lee went for an MRI on his back Thursday, and starting big men Josh McAuley and Chandler Thomas also missed practice with assorted ailments. Metea's win over Downers Grove South on Wednesday was also a physical contest. The Mustangs have no injuries of note, but they do have 24 fewer hours to prepare.
Also keep an eye on West's frontcourt. I thought the 6-foot-6 McAuley had an excellent game Tuesday, holding his own against 6-9 Plainfield East big man Brian Bennett. I was surprised to read McAuley was hanging his head in the locker room after the game because he didn't score enough points. Kerkman rightfully reminded him that he had made critical contributions defensively and on the glass. McAuley, Chandler Thomas and Spencer Thomas are all juniors, and their development as a front line has been key in West's postseason surge.
Lest we forget, there's another sectional championship to watch Friday night out in Sycamore. That's where Aurora Central (12-17) will take on Rockford East (19-10) in a Class 3A matchup. We've seen this movie before -- the two teams played for a sectional title last year also, with the Chargers prevailing 85-82 in overtime. Many of the key players from last year are back on both sides, so it won't come as any surprise if these two teams battle all the way to the final horn once again.
Don't let ACC's subpar record fool you. There's little doubt the Chargers would have a better record if they hadn't lost their best player, 6-5 center Robert DeMyers, for an extended period of time with a broken fibula. DeMyers is back, and judging by his recent numbers, he's at or close to full strength. Rockford East also features a good big man in 6-6 Steven McNease, who torched Kaneland for 21 fourth-quarter points in the E-Rabs sectional win Tuesday night. If DeMyers or McNease get in foul trouble, that could be the factor that swings the game.
As always, you can visit beaconnewsonline.com/sports Friday night and Saturday morning for full coverage of both these games. If you want to see the coverage in print, be sure to pick up the Sunday edition of The Beacon-News.