Aurora -- It was a first round exit, but the Aurora boys basketball team demonstrated how much it improved in a 69-54 season-ending, sectional tournament loss at Cleveland Heights (15-9).
AHS finished with a 9-14 overall record after winning only one game last year.
"We were right there," said head coach Jim Wallish, noting with 3 minutes left in the third quarter, Aurora had fought back from a double-digit deficit to trail 50-48.
Dondre McDowell exploited the Greenmen for 26 points in the game, including five 3-pointers. It was a season high for him.
The loss spoiled a brilliant performance by 6-foot-2 senior forward Anthony Quaranto, who had 17 points, including a career-high three 3-pointers.
"It was very cool for Anthony to go out with one of his finest games ever," said Wallish. "Our seniors did a great job.
"Our goal at the half [AHS was down 38-27] was to win the third quarter and we did [outscoring the Tigers 17-14]. We had a shot."
Senior guard Paul Kollat had 11 points and sophomore guard Parker Blunt scored 10. Senior forward-guard Drew Daff and sophomore forward Kyle Fayne each netted 5 points, while junior post Pavel Galchenko contributed 4.
Senior forward Joe Roberto and junior Joe Dinardo each added a hoop and played solid defense.
"We were worried about when a quality team like Cleveland Heights would make a run, how would we respond," said Wallish. "The guys really stepped up to the challenge and I am proud of everyone. I think this district is one of the toughest in the area in Division I."
Cleveland Heights was upended 75-65 by 12th-seeded Euclid in the sectional finals.
The Greenmen finished a respectable 6-6 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division, which was won by Chagrin Falls.
AHS closed out its regular season with a 40-36 loss on Feb. 21 at Painesville Harvey.