INSIDE THE BASELINE
At practice earlier this past week, West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman made a decision.
The showdown with East Aurora was Saturday, and he knew he was outmanned at the guard position. He knew there was no defense he could draw up to stop Ryan Boatright completely, but he might be able to slow down the Tomcats guard
"We worked on a number of different things in preparation," said Kerkman on the floor of the DeKalb Convocation Center, moments after his Blackhawks upset East Aurora 72-66. "Box-in-one, triangle and two. I made the decision early in the week we would (switch up)."
After Boatright fed teammate Snoop Viser on an alley oop pass to give the Tomcats a 15-8 lead late in the 1st quarter, Kerkman decided now was the time. The Blackhawks had to go to zone. But there was a problem.
"There was so much noise it was hard to communicate with the kids on the floor," said Kerkman. "I didn't want to call a time out to get into it. I decided I'll wait until end of quarter."
You can't argue with his timing. His Blackhawks got the message. After the switch to zone from man-to-man, they went on a 9-2 run to start the 2nd quarter, eventually leading 38-29 at one point. The switch forced the Tomcats to play at a pace they are not accustomed to--methodical, half court. It was exactly what Kerkman thought would happen.
"They weren't getting quite as good a looks," said Kerkman, with a grin on his face while sipping a celebratory cup of water. "It was taking them a little longer to operate on offense than what it was earlier."
While the Tomcats adjusted, they never controlled the pace the rest of the game. It shows how the simplest of moves in a basketball game can make a big difference. After 30-plus years of coaching, Gordie Kerkman has had a lot of big wins. This is one he'll remember for a long time.
Here's a little sneak peak of the jubilent Blackhawks locker room right after the game-
This interview started as a one-on-one with Juwan Starks just outside the locker room--who scored 17 points--but before long, word got out, and well, let's just say the Blackhawks were not camera shy-
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
West Aurora 5-10 junior guard Brandon Hayes
Talk about stepping up.
The cliché is tossed around more than a medicine ball at a Navy Seals workout. Saturday night, Hayes' performance truly personified the expression.
Playing in place of Derrick Johnson--who was thrown off the team the night before--Hayes responded with 12 points, eight in the 2nd quarter when the Blackhawks reversed a six-point deficit into a nine-point lead.
Hayes was also a unlikely star on defense, assigned to shadow the Tomcats' Ryan Boatright after Kerkman switched to a box-in-one defense in an attempt to contain the lightning-quick guard.
"Brandon has a ton of ability," said Kerkman. "What he needed was confidence. Maybe this will give it to him."
If a night like Saturday doesn't give Hayes an injection of confidence, I'm not sure what will.
Hayes, teammates and fans were in full celebration mode in the catacombs of the Convocation Center in DeKalb minutes after the game-
Not sure what they were chanting. Any thoughts? Tweet to @beaconhoop.
MANDATORY RYAN BOATRIGHT STORYLINE OF THE WEEK
I caught up with a despondent-looking Boatright outside the visitor's locker room after the Tomcats loss late Saturday night. The junior performed brilliantly--scoring 33 points and almost single-handedly bringing East Aurora back in the 4th quarter, although he missed six of 12 foul shots.
Our conversation turned to his recruiting--which for juniors such as Boatright is in ramp-up mode.
This month is an "evaluation period" for high school juniors. What this means is college coaches can scout junior recruits in person. Where they are limited is with in-person contact. Coaches cannot speak to recruits in person, and are allowed one phone call per month. Recruits can contact coaches on their own as often as they like.
I asked Boatright what schools are in contact with him.
"Kentucky, Tennessee, Miami and Wake Forest," he said.
While he didn't give me any indication of where he was leaning, he did reveal his timetable for making a decision.
"I want to be done by the end of the summer," said Boatright. "I want to be able to focus on my senior season."
This would mean Boatright is planning on signing with a school by the early period--which for basketball is November.
Here's my post game one-on-one with Boatright just after the game-
HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT OF THE WEEK
One thing I've noticed in the years covering high school sports is the evolution of halftime entertainment. Whatever happened to simple pom-pom routines? Now you've got serious dancing each and every week. This Saturday, these girls from East Aurora made the most of their three minutes:
RANDOM VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Every high school has a cheering section. But just how "rowdy" can they be? West Aurora's "Rowdies" are about as loud as any I've heard. I was right in front of them the entire game. Non-stop enthusiasm and energy. Here's an example of what happens when you get a bunch of teenagers together on a road trip. Chaos ensues-