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Aurora — Playing toe to toe with a quality foe in league rival Chagrin Falls will go a long way for the maturing the Aurora boys basketball team.
Once the Greenmen “play through” and realize that the separation in talent between clubs like the Tigers is not that vast, Aurora could notch an upset or two.
As it was, the Jan. 24 clash at Chagrin Falls was 33-26 at the half and ended with a 61-40 win for the Tigers (13-1), who moved to 6-1 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division.
Aurora fell to 5-10 overall and 3-4 in the CVC as the offense managed only 14 points in the second half.
“I thought we played very well in the first half,” said head coach Jim Wallish. “The guys played hard and got the looks we wanted, but the shots didn’t fall. That third quarter was just a matter of Chagrin just wanting it more.
“They [Chagrin] beat us pretty bad on the boards and they are a quality team, but I didn’t feel like we were overmatched. I think when our backs are against the wall, we have the capability to compete with anybody.”
It was 13-11 after one quarter as Chagrin held a slim lead. Aurora was led by sophomore forward Kyle Fayne, who had one of his finest games with 10 points. Steady senior guard Paul Kollat had 10 as well.
The 6-foot-3 Fayne showed he could compete with the best the CVC has to offer. “And Paul had a great game, and has made a lot of positive strides this season,” said Wallish. “He is getting more confidence.
“I THINK once our younger kids get used to the speed of the game, we will do much better,” noting the JVs beat Chagrin to move to 12-3 this winter.
Junior guard Joe Dinardo put in 9, while senior forward Drew Daff had 5, junior Pavel Galchenko added 3, junior Michael Durkin 2 and sophomore Parker Blunt a free throw.
Meanwhile, senior Joe Roberto was the hero of Aurora’s thrilling 42-41 win over visiting Perry on Jan. 21. Aurora had a big 15-9 third quarter.
The 6-foot Roberto, who plays in the paint and is often undersized, converted a put-back bucket with 4.5 seconds left for the game-winner.
Kollat, who had 9 points, put up a shot on the Greenmen’s final possession that didn’t fall, but Blunt was active and got the loose ball. Blunt’s shot misfired and Roberto snagged the offensive board and earned the win.
“That was a big put-back by Joe,” said Wallish, whose club led by as many as 12 points. “We did a really nice job in the third quarter and in the fourth, early on.”
Wallish liked his team’s aggressiveness. Anthony Quaranto, a senior forward, had 8 points, while Roberto and Galchenko had 6 each. Dinardo and Blunt had 5 each, Durkin added a hoop and junior Nick Ely had a free throw.
Aurora visits West Geauga on Jan. 31, plus has road games on Feb. 4 against division co-leader Kenston and Feb. 8 against Chardon.