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AURORA -- Few in Aurora were alive the last time the Greenmen girls basketball team secured a conference championship.
It's been 90 years, according to Greenmen coach Erika Greenberg, citing a title in 1927.
"This is something they want," Greenberg said. "This is something that we've talked about for a while. It is something we've worked toward this season. They really put themselves in a good position."
Aurora put itself in strong position by beating previous frontrunner Revere 44-38 on Jan. 28. The first time the teams met, the Minutemen won by 16 points.
This time, the Greenmen beat the Minutemen with balanced scoring. Senior April Davis notched 17 points, sophomore Shayla Sellers added 15 and senior Syarra Sellers finished with 12.
Equally important, Aurora played its normal stifling defense -- with a twist. Occasionally, teams will employ a "Triangle-and-2" defense, with man-to-man defense on the opponent's two leading scorers and a triangle zone for the rest.
On a suggestion from Aurora teacher David Munson, the Greenmen played a variation of the "Triangle-and-2," with man-to-man defense on the Minutemen's top three threats and a sort of zone for the rest.
While they haven't usually employed that scheme, defense has long been critical to the Greenmen's success. In 13 of 18 games, they've held their opposition under 40 points, including three straight games under 30 in mid-December.
"We rely on our defense heavily," Greenberg said. "Our offense struggles at times, so we really have to lock down the other team to keep us in the game."
She praised her team's communication and rotation, in particular. "This is probably one of the best defensive teams I've ever coached," Greenberg said.
Like any team lacking dominant offense, the Greenmen have had to win their share of close games. Rarely able to run away from opponents, Aurora has held the lead more often than not.
Six of the Greenmen's 14 wins are by 6 points or fewer, including five of their nine American Division wins. More remarkable is how many close games Aurora has won on the road -- with a 32-30 win at Barberton, a 32-26 win at Highland, a 32-28 win at Tallmadge and the 44-38 win at Revere.
Greenberg credited her team's experience, noting that her starting lineup consists of three seniors and two sophomores, each of whom played varsity her freshman year. Her sixth player -- Sarah Marchese -- is a senior.
Greenberg also credited her team's mentality, saying this year's squad is different because of its self-confidence.
"Sometimes you get complacent when you lose and think you're going to lose," Greenberg said. "With these girls, they believe they can win and they believe that they're in every game. I think that makes it different at the end of the game if they think it's theirs."
A different mindset has led to different results, putting the Greenmen on the verge of achieving something they haven't done in many years.
However, AHS followed its victory at Revere with a letdown performance against Highland two days later. The Greenmen were without Korie Hobbs (bone bruise) that night.
"It's hard to come off a big win," Greenberg said. "Our team was focused, we were ready, [but] we didn't really have our legs under us on our shots."
Even so, the Greenmen control their own destiny. Aurora, Revere and Tallmadge are all fighting for the title in Suburban League American Division with two losses apiece.
Tallmadge hosts Revere today (Feb. 8). A week later, the Greenmen get the Blue Devils at home with a chance to make history.
The good news is the pressure of 90 years isn't weighing too heavily on the Greenmen, according to Greenberg.
"For them, it's not 90 years," Greenberg explained. "For them, it's only four."
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