HINSDALE – This March Madness stuff gets crazier all the time.
But what really matters is that, for the first time, Bolingbrook's boys basketball team is headed to the state finals.
The Raiders went almost seven minutes without scoring midway through the second half Tuesday night as West Aurora went on a 13-0 run to draw even at 45 with 6:49 remaining.
Before it ended, Bolingbrook needed every bit of several big defensive stops to secure a wild, 50-49 victory in the Class 4A Hinsdale Central Supersectional.
The Raiders advance to face Stevenson at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria.
"We could have folded, and we didn't," Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost said. "Thank goodness were able to get the stops we needed the last couple of minutes. Give our kids credit for that."
West Aurora (22-9) was playing without point guard Matt Dunn, who missed last week's sectional games for violation of team rules, and Drake Spears, the sixth man who broke his foot in Friday's East Aurora Sectional final against Hinsdale Central.
But even more important, the Blackhawks' big man, 6-foot-6 Illinois State recruit Roland Griffin, was not in uniform. He reportedly was in a fight Tuesday and was suspended.
So West Aurora was giving away size and was without its leading scorer and rebounder, among others. Yet legendary coach Gordie Kerkman's Blackhawks gave the Raiders (24-6), who have won 18 of the last 19, all they wanted. Kerkman finished his 39th season with 805 career victories.
"We knew coming into this game that it didn't matter who was wearing their jerseys," Brost said. "With their program and their history, we knew what we were up against.
"Gordie is one of the best coaches in the country. It's an honor to go against him."
"Obviously, we lost quite a player," Kerkman said of Griffin. "But I wanted our guys to go out, play hard and have fun. They killed us on the boards and capitalized more on that the first half [which ended with Bolingbrook leading, 30-27]. They didn't capitalize as much in the second half."
After West Aurora tied it at 45, Bolingbrook used a favorite maneuver to regain the lead. Brodric Thomas grabbed one of his seven rebounds and hit Prentiss Nixon flying to the basket for a layup.
The Blackhawks then misfired from 3-point range. Nixon grabbed the long rebound, turned and beat everyone down the floor for another layup with just under five minutes left for a 49-45 lead.
"Those two layups were important to the team, but they wouldn't have happened without my teammates," said Nixon, who scored 15 points on 5 of 14 shooting.
West Aurora did not die, however, as Tommy Koth's steal and layup made it 49-47 with 3:07 to go. Julian Torres, Bolingbrook's 6-foot-9 center who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, made 1 of 2 free throws with 2:44 to go. That would be Bolingbrook's final point and the eventual difference.
"My teammates were keeping me up," said Torres, who hit 5 of 6 shots and 7 of 8 free throws. "I just wanted to win for the team."
Torres was a key as Bolingbrook went on 11-0 runs in the first and third quarters to open substantial leads, yet the Blackhawks kept coming back.
West Aurora got within 50-49 when Reggie Jordan scored on an acrobatic layup with 1:54 left. The Blackhawks regained possession after the last of Bolingbrook's 15 second-half turnovers with 1:29 left.
The Blackhawks ran the clock down to :33 and called timeout. Koth got a look from about 13 feet, but Bolingbrook's Dimitri Akenten, who had eight rebounds, got a hand on it, and Torres pulled it out of the air. He was fouled with six seconds left, the sixth West Aurora foul of the second half.
Thomas then completed a long pass to Nixon in the frontcourt and he dribbled until being fouled with :03.9 left. He missed the front end of the one-and-one, and the Blackhawks rebounded. Jordan got a look from about 40 feet, but it was too hard.
"It looked like it was going in," Jordan said. "But it didn't."
"It doesn't matter if you win by one or by 21," Brost said. "It's win and move on."