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Aurora -- Searching for wins, the youthful Aurora boys basketball team has not played like its record suggests, which makes head coach Jim Wallish happy. But he'd like to see his Greenmen notch a "W" to earmark the strong play.
On Jan. 11, Aurora dropped a tough non-league decision at Crestwood 43-37 to move to 3-9 overall. The night before, the Greenmen (1-3 in the Chagrin Valley Conference) hung with Chagrin Division-leading Kenston for much of the game, only to suffer a heartbreaking 46-45 loss.
"We've had some close losses and it's been tough, but these guys are really improving," said Wallish.
In the Jan. 10 home loss to Kenston (10-2 overall and 5-0 in the CVC), AHS played fantastic defense and outscored the first-place Bombers in the final three quarters.
It wasn't enough, though, as Kenston jumped to a 12-0 lead in thefirst 4 minutes and Aurora could never fully recover despite gaining the lead briefly.
"Against a strong team like Kenston, it's tough to overcome a 12-0 start," said Wallish. "We dug a hole and came back. Our kids just needed a shot or two, but we just couldn't convert."
Wallish is tired of moral victories, but the comeback against Kenston was a big one.
"I think it was a positive step for our program. We fought back after some adversity against a quality team and it was the way we fought back. In some stretches, we outplayed them."
JOe Dinardo popped in 13 points to pace Aurora, while Anthony Quaranto and Paul Kollat each canned 11 points. Sophomore Parker Blunt added 6 and Pavel Galchenko had 4. Guard Jay Weemhoff poured in 18 points to lead Kenston, while post Joe Simmons added 11.
IN THE loss at Crestwood (3-8), Aurora opened with a 2-point first quarter, and trailed 9-2 at the first break. The locals then outscored Crestwood 14-10 in the second period and trailed 19-16 at the half.
Another dry spell came for the Greenmen in the third period with only four points, and the Red Devils led 28-20 heading into the fourth. That's when Aurora exploded for 17 points, but it was too little, too late.
"We forced a great amount of turnovers on defense and we outrebounded Crestwood by a good amount, but we just didn't make shots," said Wallish. "We missed a lot of shots, especially in the paint."
Kollat led Aurora with 10 points, while Dinardo popped in 8 and Pavel Galchenko had 7.
Junior guard Michael Durkin added 4 points, along with sophomore Kyle Fayne. Quaranto and Joe Roberto each added a hoop.
The Greenmen have an extended road trip coming, with six of the next seven games on foreign territory.
Aurora plays Jan. 17 at Orange, hosts Perry on Jan. 21, plays at Chagrin Falls on Jan. 24, visits Painesville Harvey on Jan. 28 and travels to West Geauga on Jan. 31, Kenston on Feb. 4 and Chardon on Feb. 8.
"Defensively, we're playing extremely hard and improving," said Wallish. "Even if a team is struggling shooting the ball, strong defense will always keep them in the game. We are doing that. The kids have bought into playing hard defense, and we're doing it more and more often."