Weekly Feature

2018-01-11 / Sports

Blue Devil cagers begin 2018 on two-game streak


Will Covington’s season debut couldn’t have come at a better time for East Aurora’s boys basketball team, as the Blue Devils were able to stop their seven-game losing streak Thursday by defeating Pioneer on the road, 58-53.

Covington, who spent the first month of the season recovering from an injury, paced East Aurora in his first time out by scoring 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting – which included a 2-of-3 showing behind the three-point line. Covington also had three rebounds and two assists for the victors, who broke open a close 20-18 game at the half with a 23-12 run over the course of the third quarter. East Aurora knocked down five of its eight three-point baskets for the game in the third quarter.

Pioneer responded in kind during the final stanza, using a 23-15 run to make things interesting, but in the end East Aurora was strong enough at both ends of the court to hold off the Panthers’ challenge.

“I’m not sure if anyone expected Will to do what he did his first time out, but that was a great lift for us, considering he’s not yet in game shape,” coach Chris Koselny said. “His effort, and even just his presence, helped take some of the pressure off some of the other guys on the team. As a group, we were playing well in the third quarter, and I just wanted us to keep doing what we were doing, which we accomplished for the most part.

“We knew we could do this, so to get that first win and finally prove to ourselves that we can start to make some forward progress was good. There was just a big sense of relief when that final horn sounded.”

Noah Denz chipped in with 13 points, 13 rebounds and three assists, while Bruno Tillmann added 10 points and seven rebounds. Kam Kmicinski contributed six points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals, while Jimmy Tanner chipped in with five points, two rebounds and two assists.

East Aurora was able to ride the momentum of its first win to a second consecutive win two days later, as the Blue Devils used a solid second half to secure their 58-47 triumph over Holland in the weather-delayed consolation final of the Bank of Holland Southtowns Classic.

East Aurora, playing its fourth straight game without being able to practice the day before due to weather cancellations, fell behind by a 30-24 margin at the half, in part because Koselny said “we were a little out of rhythm from the early start, and came out flat because of it.” The Blue Devils responded by turning up their aggression at both ends of the floor, and that led to a 17-7 run over the course of the third quarter that pushed them out front, 41-37, heading into the final stanza.

“The boys got self-motivated in the second half, got some stops, made some plays and found a way to come through in the end,” Koselny said. “We imposed our will more in the second half instead of just letting the game come to us. We showed our opponent who we are instead of being reactionary, which is something we’ve been working on as of late.”

Denz led the way for East Aurora with 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while Kmicinski chipped in with 13 points, five rebounds and two steals. All-Tournament Team selection Wittmann contributed 11 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks, while Tillmann finished with eight points, nine rebounds, two assists and a block.

Connor Boss added six points for East Aurora (2-7 overall, 1-3 ECIC III), who returned to action Tuesday against Lake Shore in a game that ended too late for this edition. The Blue Devils are slated to close out their week by traveling to Maryvale Friday and City Honors Saturday; East Aurora will face Olmsted Saturday as part of the annual MLK Classic Showcase.

“I think we just have to keep laying the foundation of who we are, including identifying our roles and being aggressive at both ends of the floor,” Koselny said. “We can’t be afraid of making mistakes, but at the same time we have to do our best to minimize them as well. I always tell the kids that if I’m giving them the green light to shoot, they’ve also got the green light to miss. Getting better with that mentality every day is something that can go a long way towards future success for us.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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