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Aurora -- The lights came on bigtime for the young Aurora High varsity boys basketball team as it won a pair of games over the weekend to prep for the postseason.
Suddenly, Aurora is 8-12 overall and flirting with .500 ball. The Greenmen also have a winning record in the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division at 6-5.
Incredibly, Aurora could secure sole possession of third-place in the CVC with a win Feb. 21 at Painesville Harvey. All this seemingly overnight after a tough and long 1-22 campaign last year.
"The kids are finally getting the confidence that they can win games and win close games," said head coach Jim Wallish after his club beat West Geauga 66-45 at home on Feb. 15. That victory came after a 62-52 Feb. 14 home win over Orange.
"I can see it in their faces in the locker room; I can tell they have the confidence," said Wallish. "That's the greatest thing -- that we can see it. These kids are bearing down and starting to experience some success, and that builts confidence."
In the last five games, Aurora is 3-2, with a loss to Chardon in overtime and 3-point loss to Kenston (16-5) thanks to a late 6-0 run.
"It's fun for the seniors because it's great they are having some success," the coach said. "These young kids are starting to build on the expectation of success."
Aurora had its tournament draw for the Solon and Euclid Division I "blended" sectional-district tournament, and it was seeded only 24th out of 26 schools. The locals will travel to Cleveland Heights (13-7) on Feb. 26.
"I think this district is one of the toughest in the area in Division I," said Wallish.
Senior guard Paul Kollat continues to excel, and led Aurora with 15 points against West Geauga. Sophomore wing Parker Blunt had 13.
Against Orange, the Lions jumped out to a 14-9 lead after the first quarter, but Aurora exploded for 53 points in the next three periods.
It was a big win, as Orange (7-13) had just defeated Kenston and Chagrin Falls in league play. Kollat had 13 points to lead the way, while senior forward Drew Daff played well, netting 11.
Junior center Pavel Galchenko and Blunt each scored 9, while senior Anthony Quaranto had 6, sophomore Kyle Fayne had 5, junior Michael Durkin made three free throws, plus senior Joe Roberto and juniors Joe Dinardo and Nick Ely each added 2.
"We knew Orange was playing well and has two very good guards," said Wallish. "Everyone contributed. Our goal is to play the best basketball at the end of the year and that's what we are doing. February is like a mini season."
Meanwhile, coach Jay Price saw his freshman team finish the season with a successful campaign, going 12-7 overall.