West Aurora senior Juwan Starks did a good job of summing up the Blackhawks' 62-51 loss to Proviso East Tuesday in the Hinsdale Central Class 4A Supersectional.
"We didn't capitalize on their mistakes," Starks said. "We were still in the game, but not really. It was real tough. I'm real proud of my team."
West was in the game, but there was never really much doubt Proviso East would win this thing. The undefeated Pirates (31-0) jumped out to a 17-6 lead in the first quarter -- their press forcing the Blackhawks into seven first quarter turnovers.
West Aurora fought back and got within two in the second quarter at 19-17, but Proviso East led by eight (29-21) at the break. In the second half, the Pirates' lead was never less than six, but never more than 13. That's what Starks means when he says his team was in it, but not really. The Blackhawks did not get blown out, but they did not come close to winning either.
No shame in this postseason performance for West High. They were the fourth-seed in the sectional complex, and they beat top-seeded Plainfield East and third-seeded Metea Valley to win the sectional. That's exceeding expectations. The Blackhawks finish the season with a respectable 25-6 record.
This might be the start of another good two- or three-year run for West Aurora. Sure, the Blackhawks graduate Starks, an outstanding player who leaves as the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,627 points. But seven of the top nine players on the West roster will be back next year. Sophomore guard Jontrel Walker still needs to improve his handle, but he looks prepared to take the reins as the Blackhawks' go-to scorer. Junior Jayquan Lee, the team's best perimeter defender, will also be back.
The frontcourt is in good shape with the Thomas twins -- Chandler and Spencer -- and 6-foot-5 Josh McAuley. The Thomases are grinders out there. Both are good rebounders and good defenders. McAuley seems to be the most skilled of the group. He's a pretty good passer out of the high post. If he could add about 10 or 15 pounds over the offseason, he could be a real tough post man for West High.
I think good things are ahead for Blackhawk basketball. Honestly, it's about time. This proud program went six years between regional and sectional titles. I don't expect another drought like that. Wouldn't be surprised to see West back at this same level next year.