Annawan ends it for Aurora Christian.
Byline: Jerry Fitzpatrick email@example.com
MARSEILLES -- Aurora Christian's season ended Friday after Annawan rode a hot start to a 63-54 victory in a Class 1A sectional title game.
Trailing was an unfamiliar feeling for the Eagles, who led for most of 26 games this season en route to the Ottawa Marquette boys basketball sectional final, which was played at Marseilles Elementary School. They entered the playoffs ranked No. 1 among 1A schools, but second-ranked Annawan (29-3) wasn't intimidated in the slightest.
Seeking payback for a 47-36 loss to Aurora Christian at the State Farm Holiday Classic in Bloomington on Dec. 28, the Braves bolted to a 16-6 advantage and led 19-12 after a quarter. Their hot start came courtesy of senior Ben Buresh, who sank four of his five 3-pointers in the opening quarter. He led all scorers with 26 points.
"It all happened so fast," Aurora Christian sophomore Will Wolfe said. "They had a couple of big ones in the first quarter to give them a good start. I guess we overlooked them because we played them in Bloomington and beat them by 11. We weren't ready to play, I guess. They were just playing harder than us. They wanted it more."
Aurora Christian (25-2) drew within 21-20 in the second quarter but still trailed 26-21 at the half.
The Eagles pulled within 31-30 with 4:43 left in the third quarter on Will Wolfe's 3-pointer from the top of the arc, but Annawan closed the period on an 8-0 run to take a 43-35 lead, capped Buresh's fifth 3-pointer.
Though the Eagles trimmed the deficit to 6 on three occasions in the fourth-quarter, thanks to 2 baskets and 2 free throws from leading scorer Jake Wolfe, they were unable to climb all the way back. They made only 3 of 11 fourth-quarter shots.
"We have not been in a deficit much of the year, in fact very little, and I thought we panicked a little bit," Aurora Christian coach Dan Beebe said. "I think that was the biggest thing for us offensively. We hadn't played like that all year as far as panicking on offense and rushing our shots and rushing a lot of things. Just picked a bad time not to have your best game and a lot of credit to that goes to Annawan."
Annawan will face Colfax Ridgeview in the Class 1A ISU supersectional on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"We just beat the No. 1 team in the state so the sky is the limit right now," said Annawan senior Owen Landwehr, who scored 6 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Lipscomb recruit Jake Wolfe lingered in the locker room after scoring a team-best 24 points in his final high school game. He waited as teammates exited one by one, stuffing tissues between two sore toes then donning his sock and a gray team sweatsuit.
One of the greatest players in program history shared a final moment individually with Eagles assistant coaches Ryan McQuade and Demetrice Stephens, then a long hug with Beebe. Jake Wolfe was part of three straight regional titles with the Eagles, highlighted by a Class 2A sectional title when he was a sophomore.
"I've had a lot of fun," Jake Wolfe said. "I think I've matured as a basketball player and a person. A lot of that credit goes to Dan Beebe. He's a great coach and I'm going to miss playing for him."